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Council backs proposal to limit student houses in Roath

A view of Donald Street in Roath

Areas of Roath such as Donald Street will be affected by the proposals.

ROATH councillors have given a mixed reaction to a city council proposal to limit more student houses.

On Thursday the Labour-dominated council backed proposals to prevent the development of Houses in Multiple Occupancy in areas that already have a large amount.

An HMO is one shared by three or more people who are not related. In Roath, this tends to mean groups of students and young professionals.

Under the plans, in Roath and Cathays new HMOs would not be approved for development if more than 20% of the houses in a 50m radius are already HMOs. Roath has 29% of the city’s HMOs – only Cathays with 58%, has more.

The plans were opposed by the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives at City Hall, but Roath’s Labour councillors say the public back the plans.

Labour councillor Daniel De’Ath said: “These restrictions on new HMOs in Roath will do a lot for our area. An over-concentration of HMOs can place pressures on neighbourhoods and I’m sure these restrictions enjoy the support of the vast majority of Roath residents.”

“HMOs play a key role in the housing mix for the city, but there are concerns over the deep concentration of them in small areas. This cumulative impact can lead to negative issues for the wider community, around waste disposal and parking for example.”

High numbers of HMOs have been linked to high levels of complaints over rubbish. Roath generated 9.08% of citywide complaints despite having only 5.25% of the population.

A picture of Donald Street

Residential areas of Roath will have to meet strict criteria before new HMOs are approved.

Over 12 months the Plasnewydd ward received more than triple the citywide average of requests for street cleaning, as well as four times the average number of waste enforcement requests.

Councillor De’Ath’s views were echoed by deputy council leader Sue Lent.

“We have been asking for controls on the number of HMOs for years. We need a mix, but too many HMOs leads to problems for the permanent residents and isolation, particularly for elderly people,” she said.

From 1981 to 2011 the number of people living in houses they own in Roath fell from 58.4% to 32.6%. Over the same period the percentage of 16 to 29-year-olds living in the area rose from 29.6% to 51.4%.

However, Liberal Democrat councillor Robin Rea said the proposals were flawed: “Roath’s streets weren’t built for the numbers of people and cars using them. I supported this planning guidance to try and limit the problems of increasing population density.

“I was disappointed that Labour did not listen to calls for further consultation from the Students’ Union, Landlord Association and the Liberal Democrats because this policy is far from perfect. It does not address how to provide affordable rented accommodation for young people and those with low incomes.”

“It also opens Roath up to a developer’s gold rush that could price young people out of buying their own home for even longer.”