Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Holy Land HMO crisis ‘irreversible’

SDLP Dr Alasdair McDonnell the new MP for South Belfast with supporters at the Belfast Count in the Belfast City Hall. 9/5/05

The amount of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in the Botanic area, which takes in the student enclave of the Holy Land, has rocketed to a staggering 71 percent, it has been revealed.

New figures, released by the Northern Ireland Assembly last week in response to a written question from South Belfast MP, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, have exposed the extent of the multiple occupancy crisis with a total of 2,922 HMOs in the densely populated area.

The Botanic area tops Belfast’s 51 wards with another south Belfast ward, Windsor, coming in second with 55 percent of its overall properties also being designated as HMOs in the city.

Dr McDonnell has said the problem is beyond repair.

He said: “The damage has already been done. I can’t see any way of it being reversed.”

In response to the HMO explosion, legislation is currently in place which caps the amount of HMOs in an area at 30 percent.

Where HMOs have saturated areas, such as the Holy Land, no more HMO development is supposed to happen until the percentage drops below the 30 percent ceiling.

Dr McDonnell added: “The 30 percent rule has become too little too late for the Holy Land. The 30 percent rule was only introduced a few years back when the problem had reached around 60 percent.

“Basically there are far too many HMOs and students concentrated in the Holy Land area. It has become a small student town. There has been a steady erosion of the Holy Land area right through the Troubles.

“We didn’t plan for a vast increases in student numbers. We didn’t just have the expansion of Queen’s but students from the University of Ulster moved into the area as well.

“There are around 10,000 students living there in a couple of thousand houses with little provisions in the area.”

He added: “When you have an almost exclusive student town you will have the type of problems and situations happening like that on St Patrick’s Day (2009).”

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