University of Wolverhampton academics are working to address problems associated with multiple-occupancy houses in the Telford area.
The town has seen a growth in numbers of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs), where residents have their own bedroom but share facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms.
While many are well run and tenants are supported, others are less well managed and some tenants have experienced crime, violence and issues such as lack of heating and property repairs.
The University's work will support efforts by Telford & Wrekin Council and other partners to address problems.
The Council has recently increased its enforcement powers, appointed a new Rogue Landlord Taskforce and secured a grant of almost £400,000 to address challenges as part of its work to secure 'Better Homes for All'.
Dr Steve Iafrati, a social policy expert at the University’s Institute for Community Research and Development, is currently working with Telford Citizen’s Advice Bureau, police, GPS, the Department for Work and Pensions, voluntary groups and other organisations to address some of the problems associated with HMOs.
He said: “It is estimated that there are over 450 HMOs in Telford. HMOs tend to have a high proportion of vulnerable tenants such as those with mental health problems, substance abuse issues, former prisoners, former looked after children, and those formerly homeless.
“With housing shortages, for those on the lowest income and relying on benefits, HMOs are often the only option. For many landlords, this has created an economic opportunity to turn houses into HMOs and make large profits, often with little reason to invest in the properties or tenants’ wellbeing.”
Local authorities are being given more powers to limit the development of HMOs through planning regulations, enforcement and landlord licensing. Proposed Government changes to mandatory licensing will give councils more powers to take action against landlords who don’t comply with the license conditions.
Dr Iafrati said: “For those living in the local communities near concentrations of HMOs, there are regular complaints about crime and anti-social behaviour as well as creating a stigma for the area.
“Limiting the number of HMOs will not stop people’s demand for affordable rented accommodation that is currently not being met. At worst, this will make many of the poorest and most vulnerable people more likely to be homeless.”
He added: “The solution will lie in being able to understand and address people’s needs rather than solely through enforcement. The University will provide research and evidence to help inform solutions based on prevention rather than cure.”
Initial interviews with HMO tenants have revealed problems such as break-ins, violence in communal areas, drug dealing, food being stolen from communal kitchens and lack of hot water or heating.
“Following our research, the University will make recommendations to help address some of the problems and support the hard work currently being undertaken by a wide range of organisations.
“This may include greater outreach work with young people, health advice and support, rewarding good landlords, education, volunteering opportunities in the community, and supporting places such as the Hub on the Hill in Sutton Hill to deliver services. There still exists a clear role for enforcement, but this cannot work on its own,” said Dr Iafrati.
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Date Issued: Tuesday, 17 July 2018