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Why Wigan Council is bringing in new rules for shared housing

Paul Prescott explains why Wigan Council has ramped up its regulations for houses in multiple occupation and how this strategy fits into its housing plans

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Picture: Getty
Picture: Getty

Wigan Council’s new policy will “allow us to monitor the quality of HMOs”, says Paul Prescott @WiganCouncil #ukhousing

“Listening to resident feedback is crucial in ensuring we can shape communities and build a borough people can be proud of,” says Paul Prescott of @WiganCouncil #ukhousing

Providing high-quality, affordable homes is a key priority for us as a council. We’re committed to helping existing residents find homes suited to them, while also encouraging others to move into our borough.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) provide a form of low-cost, flexible housing particularly for younger people and those on lower incomes. In Wigan Borough, there are currently 105 known HMOs.

Under previous regulations, landlords and developers only needed to seek planning permission if their proposed HMO was to house six or more people.

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But, in Swinley (near to Wigan town centre) and central Leigh, where HMO concentration is quite high, residents have been raising concerns about reduced access to parking, changes to the character of the area, excess noise and impacts on the physical environment.

As a direct response to these concerns, we have adopted an Article 4 direction in those two areas, meaning that HMOs of any size will now need local planning authority approval.

“Listening to resident feedback is crucial in ensuring we can shape communities and build a borough people can be proud of”

But more than just needing approvals, the new policy will allow us to monitor the quality of HMOs and the impact a high number of them can have on an area. It also promises to be the beginning of a closer working relationship with the private sector.

Following the Article 4 direction, we’re now creating a supplementary planning document (SPD), which will provide guidance to developers and landlords about the standard of accommodation we expect for HMOs and the criteria that need to be satisfied to obtain planning permission.

Listening to resident feedback is crucial in ensuring we can shape communities and build a borough people can be proud of.

We formally adopted the policy at the end of January, following cabinet giving the green light last year, and the response from the community has been positive.

This new approach comes as we launch our Ethical Lettings Agency (ELA), which will help us to improve access to good quality, well-managed properties in the private rented sector.

It’s part of a Greater Manchester-wide scheme, which sees councils enter into arrangements with private landlords to take over the management of their properties for an average term of five years.

“The Article 4 direction and Ethical Lettings Agency signal a new way of working with the private sector, which is paramount to ensuring quality homes for all”

It reduces the risk on landlords by underwriting the cost of repairs, voids and management while providing tenants with assurance that the property is secure, affordable and of good quality.

We can then use these properties to help reduce the demand on council waiting lists, while increasing the number of quality homes available to local people.

Not only do the Article 4 direction and ELA help to build trust between the council and community, but they also signal a new way of working with the private sector, which is paramount to ensuring quality homes for all in well-balanced housing areas.

Paul Prescott, cabinet member for planning, environmental services and transport, Wigan Council

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