Do you have strong views on Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs)? Then now is your chance to influence a decision by Stevenage Borough Council (SBC). But you must be quick!

HMOs are residential properties, with at least 3 individuals, forming more than one household and sharing at least a toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities. They provide some of the poorest accommodation in the private sector. They do not include properties controlled or managed by the local authority or a registered social landlord.

Opponents of HMOs say they are sometimes badly maintained, with a large number of occupiers, which can result in anti-social behaviour, car parking problems, concerns about refuse and loss of family accommodation, leading to the detriment of the local area.

Others have argued that high costs of accommodation, along with the increase in the age limit from 25 to 35 for housing benefit claimants, make HMOs one of the few viable options for single people on low incomes.

In Autumn 2015, following many complaints to the Stevenage Liberal Democrat councillors about the proliferation of HMOs, and a petition from local residents, we got SBC to agree to consult on a borough wide Article 4 Direction, which would mean that planning consent is needed before a residential property can be converted into a HMO. It would not stop all HMOs.

About a year of evidence gathering by SBC was required. Then on 19 September 2016, SBC made the Article 4 Direction, which comes into force, following a year’s required notice period, on 20 September 2017, if it is confirmed by SBC. Also, it needs central government approval.

Will SBC confirm the Article 4 Direction? It depends on the results of their current consultation, which ends at midday on 21 October 2016. If you told us last year that you felt strongly about this issue, you must now act urgently to submit your views on this matter to SBC, either by e mail to [email protected] or by post to Planning Policy Team, SBC, Daneshill House, Danestrete, Stevenage, SG1 1HN.

Cllr Robin Parker CC

Cllr Robin Parker CC

Cllr. Robin Parker C.C.

Liberal Democrat Borough Councillor for Manor Ward on Stevenage Borough Council. Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Stevenage Borough Council. Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Chells Division on Hertfordshire County Council.