Housing - houses in multiple occupation

Question asked by Eva Jedut

The Council has a clear planning policy on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). Policy CH2 of the Council’s Local Plan states that the Council will “protect HMOs except where a proposal concerns conversion into self-contained studio flats.”

HMOs have a role in providing lower cost housing within the private rental market. However, the Local Plan also recognises that some HMOs provide less than ideal places to live. We aim to strike a balance between the need to cater for the more affordable end of the private rented market and the need to provide homes of good enough quality. On this basis the Local Plan supports the change of use of HMO bedsits into studio flats.

Whilst the rental value of a studio flat is normally higher than a bedsit, it is not usually significantly higher. Whilst of a better standard than bedsits, they would not normally be described as “luxury”.

We share the concern about joining studio flats created from former HMOs. Joining studio flats has two effects:

  • creating larger flats which are no longer at the lower cost end of the private rental market; and
  • reducing the number of homes in the Borough, which reduces our ability to provide the number of homes the London Plan requires us to provide.

If an HMO is converted to a studio flat, the Local Plan requires a planning legal agreement to ensure that the flats remain as individual studios in perpetuity. 

Local Plan Policy CH2 has existed in this form since 2010 and the adoption of the Council’s Core Strategy. It is also an approach taken forward in the current review of the Local Plan (amended policy CH4: Specific Housing Needs). No objections were received to this approach to HMOs at any stage of the evolution of the new plan. It is also an approach which the Mayor of London has confirmed is in “general conformity” with the London Plan. It was not questioned at the public examination of the Local Plan which took place in the spring of 2018.

The Council has robustly followed this approach: this includes the applications which were referred to at the Full Council meeting (at 16-18 and 81 Warwick Road). In both cases the HMOs have been largely converted into studios, and in both cases planning legal agreements were signed to keep them as studio flats to prevent subsequent amalgamation. The two applications and supporting information are available on our website:

  • 16-18 Warwick Road: Creation of 23 self-contained residential studios to replace 23 existing bedsitting rooms
  • 81 Warwick Road: Conversion of 22 bedsits to 10 self-contained flats. These consist of 8 studios and 2 one bedroom flats. The one bedroom flats were appropriate given the configuration of the building. The floors containing the flats are too large for a single studio, but too small for two studios