Oxford is fortunate to have the benefits of two universities, which are both large employers, and which make an important cultural, educational and economic contribution to the life of the city and the county. We welcome attempts by the Universities and the City Council to enable a more balanced approach to the accommodation of students.
HMO (Houses in Multiple Occupation) Problem: The quality of life of long-term and full-time residents, who have an enduring interest in the community, is seriously undermined by a large transient and part-time population of students. Residents’ associations in East Oxford are repeatedly discussing the same problems, year after year, which are the result of the high number and concentration of Houses in Multiple Occupation , most of which are occupied by students. Noise, rubbish, petty vandalism, anti-social behaviour, squalid houses, concreted-over front gardens, overgrown rear gardens, lack of neighbourliness, the housing shortage, the use of first homes for families as second homes for students – these are all problems directly caused by a large transient and part-time student population.
It is hoped that the better regulation of HMOs will improve the appearance and safety of the properties, and perhaps lead to a reduction in the amount of rubbish in the gardens. But the central problem is a planning issue: there are too many HMOs, and they are concentrated in too small a space. The City Council has issued an article 4 direction so that planning permission is now required for the conversion of a residential house into a HMO.
It is desirable that the number of HMOs should be reduced in some streets, which would be possible if the Universities took more responsibility for accommodating their own students. The accommodation built at Slade Court and Dorset House is an important attempt by Brookes to attract second and third year students to live in purpose-built halls of residence rather than in houses which are suitable for families.
Student Numbers: Brookes University has recently announced that it is reducing its full-time undegraduate student numbers by 15% to meet city council limits on the number of students living in private housing. Brookes also say that the changes to funding of higher education have increased the pressure to cut student numbers. The reduction will amount to about 1,800 students out of a total full-time population of 12,000. This could release some 450 residential properties for use by families and other permanent residents. In 2013 Brookes have about 800 fewer students than in the previous year.