Within the last six years, hundreds of HMO licences have been approved in St Andrews, despite the introduction of a moratorium in 2011 which aims to reduce such proceedings, by limiting the number of properties eligible for HMO licences within a certain conservation area. Abbreviated from “houses of multiple occupation;” HMO licences are required in St Andrews for a house to be let to more than two residents who are unrelated.
Affordable, private student housing is notoriously difficult to procure in St Andrews – especially in the town centre where demand is highest.
Second year student, Esther Leonard, expressed her struggle to secure a property when she recalled, “we booked a viewing two days after listings were released. We turned up and it had already been given to the group who saw the property ten minutes before us.”
Similar experiences are far from uncommon among such house-hunters, leading to large proportions of students opting to remain in halls compared to other British universities.
The increase in HMO licences will mean that a significantly larger number of students will be able to find private housing in the coming year. This coincides with the diminishing availability of cheaper university accommodation; whilst Andrew Melville Hall is set to be closed for the next year at least, there are also alleged plans to scrap Albany Park. With these plans in place, the student housing crisis will be in even greater need of imminent solutions, especially for less wealthy students for whom the pricier halls are unaffordable.
However, not all locals are pleased with the prospect of increased student properties across the town. Earlier this year, Fife residents voiced objections, claiming that HMO licence plans could potentially turn the town into “one vast campus”. There are also fears that competition will render it much harder for local residents and families to rent properties within the town centre.
Nevertheless, the increasing demand for student housing continues to be problematic. Local letting agencies have begun to release property listings for the coming academic year; for instance, Stonehouse Letting have already published two lists, advertising a greater number of accommodations than in previous years. Viewings for all 28 properties were requested within the next 10 hours, as posted on their Facebook page.
With house-hunting season commencing, students are rushing to contract accommodation before they all go. However, with an increased number of HMO licences in the picture, there is hope that the frenzy will conclude in more students securing private accommodation in convenient locations than in previous years.