Lewisham Council's Borough-Wide Article 4 Direction for HMOs

Lewisham Council has taken action to manage the growth of homes in multiple occupation (HMOs) in the borough by introducing an HMO Article 4 Direction. This move aims to improve the standard and concentration of small HMOs and protect local high streets while also addressing the needs of the community.

Understanding the Role of Small HMOs

Small HMOs, refer to residential properties where three to six unrelated individuals live together and share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom. These living arrangements are often sought after by students and young professionals individuals due to their affordability compared to single-family dwellings, and the chance to build social connections in the houseshare. Small HMOs provide an essential housing option in areas with high demand and limited affordable housing, allowing residents to live in proximity to job opportunities and public services. However, managing the impact, concentration, and standard of small HMOs is crucial for maintaining the well-being and character of local communities.

Review of HMOs in Lewisham Borough

Lewisham Council commissioned a review of HMOs in the borough, finding a high and increasing demand for such properties. Several factors contributed to this demand, including a large and growing private rented sector, a lack of affordable housing, a growing student population, welfare reforms and HMO planning restrictions in neighbouring boroughs.

Implementing Article 4(1) Direction for Small HMOs

With an estimated 7,100 HMOs in the borough, the council has observed high levels of anti-social behaviour around these properties and increasing public concern about the impact of HMOs on the local community. We at HMO Letting Agent appealed to the council and suggested how HMO Management could be improved in the area without the need for Article 4. This was largely ignored and an Article 4(1) Direction has been implemented, withdrawing permitted development rights for small HMOs. This means that HMO planning permission are now required for converting dwelling houses (C3) into small HMOs (C4).

Lewisham’s Broader Strategy for HMO Improvement

The council aims to better manage the impact and standard of small HMOs in Lewisham and prevent overconcentration of HMOs within specific areas. The Article 4 Direction is part of the council’s broader strategy to improve HMO standards, including the extension of the HMO licensing scheme, where most HMOs now require a license.

Article 4 Direction Timeline and Areas Affected

As of 7 January 2020, Lewisham enforced an Article 4(1) Direction for its southern wards, including Bellingham, Downham, Grove Park, and Whitefoot, necessitating planning permission for the conversion of single-family houses into small Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) starting from 7 March 2020. Furthermore, a subsequent non-immediate Article 4 Direction was established for the rest of the borough, which has now taken effect as of 19 January 2024. Consequently, planning permission is now required for converting single-family dwellings into small HMOs across all wards in Lewisham, in alignment with the details provided by the Lewisham Council.

Potential Impact on Affordable Housing Availability

While the new regulation aims to improve the standards of HMOs and ensure an appropriate mix of accommodation for residents, housing activist and former Lewisham Labour councillor, Leo Gibbons, expressed concerns about the policy’s potential impact on the availability of shared households in the area. Gibbons, co-director of PricedOut, argued that HMOs are essential for low-income individuals to afford living in areas like Lewisham, where they have access to jobs in London.

Council’s Stance on HMO Regulation and Tenant Protection

The council contends that tighter regulation of HMOs and their landlords could help provide better standards for tenants. By ensuring that HMOs meet the required standards and are appropriately managed, Lewisham Council aims to create a more balanced housing environment for all residents.

The Future of HMOs in Lewisham

As Lewisham Council has now implemented the Article 4 Direction, the debate around HMOs and their role in the community continues. The council’s approach is intended to provide a better balance between preserving the character of the borough and addressing the housing needs of its residents. While some express concerns over the potential reduction in affordable housing, the council believes that a more regulated environment will ultimately benefit both HMO tenants and the wider community.

In the coming years, Lewisham Council’s policies and approach to HMOs will undoubtedly evolve in response to ongoing community needs and changing housing dynamics. The effectiveness of the current strategy will be a key factor in shaping future policy decisions and fostering a sustainable, inclusive housing landscape in the borough.

If you currently own a HMO property in Lewisham borough or are considering acquiring one, and are in search of a reputable HMO Letting Agent in Lewisham, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for further information.

Carl Evans

Written By Carl Evans

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