The rapid and welcome development of the universities over the last two decades has not been matched by a commensurate expansion of purpose-built student accommodation. Students share rented houses all over the city which were traditionally occupied by permanent residents of the city. The dominance of students in housing estates close to the universities has affected the balance traditional communities and left areas such as Hales Place and the London Road estate largely devoid of life outside term time. HMOs offer very tempting investment returns for owners of such buy-to-let properties, but locally, the situation has led both to housing shortages, pushed up the cost of renting in the city, and sometimes led to a clash of cultures and lifestyles where students are living next door to families and retirees.
In this context, the Canterbury Society strongly advocates the development of student halls in or close to the various universities. We encourage the universities to build purpose-built student accommodation close to campus (subject to the principles of good design and respect for green spaces) and for the Council to play a supporting role. This would free up large numbers of traditional housing for residents of the city. Many rental properties are rented at a premium because they are rented to a set of individuals, the aggregate rent being at least 25% higher than a standard rental. The Citizens Advice Bureau defines Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) as “a house or flat which is let to three or more people who form two or more households and who share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet” or “a house converted into bedsits or other forms of non self-contained accommodation, which is let to three or more people who form two or more households…this includes any students undertaking a full-time course of further or higher education”. For reasons outlined above, we would welcome moves by the Council to impose limit the licensing of HMOs and to deny planning permission for purpose-built student accommodation in the city centre.