Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

South Belfast housing warning

Multi-occupancy at saturation point

There were warnings today that south Belfast is becoming saturated with multi-occupancy homes after the Social Development minister said that it is likely that "most, if not all" of streets in the area exceed the permissible number of HMOs.

It has also emerged that more than 80% of houses of multiple occupancy in the south of the city are not properly registered.

The number of registered houses of multiple occupancy in south Belfast alone - according to the HMO database - is currently 2,130. Many of these properties are occupied by students or migrant workers.

However, responding to questions raised by south Belfast MLA Alex Maskey at Stormont, Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie revealed that only 356 HMOs are currently registered.

Mr Maskey asked the minister when she expected the registration of HMOs to be completed.

She said: " All the HMOs specified for registration are scheduled to be completed by February 2013."

Ms Ritchie added: "I do not find the timetable acceptable and have asked the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to review the HMO strategy and increase the rate of registration.

" The draft HMO policy for Belfast, issued by the Planning Service, seeks to manage the spread of HMOs throughout Belfast and sets a limit on the number of HMOs permissible in various parts of south Belfast.

"With the information available, it is likely that most if not all of the streets in south Belfast exceed the proposed limits for the number of HMOs."

Mr Maskey said the local community and residents' associations in the south of the city will be "horrified" at the admission.

He also said that 30% of some streets in the south of the city are currently comprised of multiple occupancy homes.

Mr Maskey continued: " While there is a need for this type of accommodation, the problem has always been the saturation of areas by HMOs.

"Because of the transient nature of the tenants - be they students, short term or migrant workers - very few of these people stay in the area and have children.

"This results in schools being depleted and works to the detriment of community cohesion.

"The projected five or six years before registration is complete is disgraceful and unacceptable and will horrify community associations," he added.

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