Planning Portal

Belfast HMO Subject Plan 2015
Plan Strategy & Policy Framework: Plan Strategy

The HMO Subject Plan Strategy aims to adopt a balanced approach to HMO development, by seeking to positively influence and shape the market for HMOs, while controlling and curtailing further development in areas where such accommodation is currently concentrated.
Belfast HMO Strategy
The Belfast HMO Strategy is to:
  • Protect the amenity of areas where multiple occupation is, or is likely to become, concentrated;
  • Accommodate the need and demand for multiple occupation, while maintaining a community balance;
  • Focus HMO development in areas where it can contribute to regeneration; and
  • Promote appropriate development of purpose built student accommodation.
An excessive number of HMOs in one area can have a blighting effect. Transient households tend not to make a long term investment in their local environment and this may have a detrimental impact on the visual appearance of a neighbourhood. Such areas may also experience excessive demands on local services e.g. refuse collection, and as a consequence this can place severe strains on infrastructure. These factors, combined with anti social behaviour and neighbour disputes, can give rise to further deterioration in the physical fabric of an area and a community’s well being. Clearly there is a need to protect environmental amenity and the well being of the local community.
The Plan Strategy also recognises there is a need and demand for shared accommodation that must be met. Such needs are influenced by affordability issues, lifestyle choice and the flexibility which low cost renting can offer. HMOs form an important role in the wider housing market and, therefore, they should be accommodated.
The HMO market has made a very positive contribution to regeneration in various parts of the city by way of attracting investment into areas and helping to renew the physical fabric by refurbishing older residential properties. HMO dwellers can also increase the demand for local goods and services helping to make them more viable. The Plan Strategy seeks to harness the advantages which HMO development can offer in terms of meeting housing needs and stimulating regeneration.
The RDS recognises that, in meeting housing needs, the development of balanced communities is encouraged by promoting a mix of housing tenures and types. The creation of quality built environments will contributes to the achievement of safe, complete and balanced communities for people to live in. (SPG-HOU 6).
Within the objective of developing community cohesion, the RDS encourages the creation of more balanced local communities characterised by community spirit, neighbourliness and a sense of belonging to a particular place. Diversity and social inclusion are distinguishing marks of well-balanced communities which embrace a mix of social groups, and are able to accommodate people of different backgrounds who wish to live together.
The loss of family housing to HMOs is most apparent in parts of South Belfast. Housing need for family housing has risen and is no longer affordable in certain areas. The need for family housing, accommodation for the elderly and vulnerable groups must be balanced with the demand and need for shared accommodation.
Students and migrant workers tend to be more transient than other groups and can potentially have a detrimental impact on local community infrastructure. Such groups are less likely to have a long term stake in a local community and consequently local support networks can breakdown. However, this must be balanced with the potential vibrancy and advantages they can bring to an area.
It is anticipated that Belfast City Council area will have an ongoing requirement to accommodate students, migrant workers and single person households. Currently the housing needs of many in these groups manifest themselves as a demand for HMO accommodation in South Belfast. However, all these needs do not necessarily have to be met in that part of the City.
The HMO Strategy seeks to balance the protection of residential amenity with the need and demand for multiple occupation. It is intended that the strategy will see a wider distribution of HMO accommodation across the City over time. This approach is consistent with the concept of balanced communities and will also consolidate regeneration at key locations.
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