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Potential changes to student housing in Leamington and Kenilworth

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A new strategy to control student housing in the Leamington and Kenilworth was put before Warwick District Council’s executive last night, and may change the options available to students when making housing choices.

The report looked to promote the building of specialist student accommodation, whilst reducing the number of properties being converted into Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs).

A HMO is defined by Warwick District Council as being “created where three or more people share accommodation and facilities; and form two or more separate households.”

Living in houses of multiple occupations, or HMOs, has proved to be a popular choice for students in the Warwick District. The number of these houses have increased by 15% over the last 7 years and most are occupied by students in the Leamington area.

HMOs have been perceived as causing waste management problems and noise pollution. It is hoped that a move to more purpose-built accommodation for meeting student housing needs will relieve some of these issues.

From last July, fortnightly meetings of a task group have been working to collect evidence and offer a report of recommendations for issues including anti-social behaviour, waste, noise and tenant concerns as well as the concentration of HMOs.

The group, made up of Warwick district councillors from different parties, have recommended that purpose-built student accommodation will be “a better way of meeting need” and encourages these sites to “include on-site management” and improve parking for student tenants and “provide both adequate off-street parking for all new HMO proposals and adequate, secure cycle parking in all cases”.

This may address other student complaints with car parking, but some students have expressed concern for the affordability of this accommodation.

The report did also recommend measures that may potentially aid students such as additional checks to ensure that landlords are “fit and proper” to manage HMOs and would overlap with the “tougher approach to rogue landlords” in expected new measures from the Government that will: “potentially include DBS checks, maintenance of a database, banning and de-licensing of persistent offenders and the use of civil penalties.”

When passed, the changes would apply for the whole district.

While Kenilworth Town Council acknowledges there is a smaller student presence in Kenilworth and perceives the population as making: “a positive contribution to the economy and community in the same way as any young resident”, they expressed that the strategy should apply to the whole district in order to prevent the town facing the same issues as Leamington.

It is feared that a strategy exclusive to Leamington risks causing an increase in HMOs to alternative locations like Kenilworth instead and effectively moving the problem rather than solving it. Indeed, the Kenilworth Town Council suggested that: “the cost of accommodation and the style of social facilities in Kenilworth” attracts mainly postgraduate students “and this may be a reason why they are currently absorbed successfully’”

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