Article 4

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1 February 2012 Dear XXXXXXXXX, you may recall we met at the landlords forum some 20 years ago? The letter below is prepared by RLA and I endorse the views presented. I would like to strongly urge Canterbury City councillors to reconsider the serious harm that Article 4 could do to Sturry North/South, Barton, Wincheap, Blean Forest, Harbledown, Lower Hardres and to the town as a whole. Contrary to what I’m sure are your expectations, you will not change the face of these areas. Existing HMOs will still remain. You may prevent more from emerging but existing ones will still remain as frozen communities – no closer to reverting to family areas than they are now. Instead, the future lays with other solutions … such as improving housing relationships with local universities and colleges and by using accreditation schemes to raise the quality and professionalism of local approved private sector landlords. Because, underlying all this, is Canterbury City Council’s responsibility to provide good quality rented housing for local people whose income level or chosen lifestyle rely on a plentiful supply of affordable, and often shared, housing. Particularly the student community – many of whom chose to stay on in Canterbury City after graduation, to begin their career with local business, and need a low-cost housing option until they have cleared the heavy debt of their education. Low income earners, too, for whom renting is the only choice. And those with prospects but are struggling, short term, to buy their first property. These people rely on Canterbury City Council to provide the housing they need. That’s why Article 4 does not help the area. Quite the contrary. There are dangers and threats that suggest you are using the wrong law to solve what you perceive as a problem. Entire communities could be destroyed and local businesses that have built up around them, dependant on servicing their needs, could systematically collapse. If Canterbury City councillors feel they have a problem with tenant behaviour or the management of properties in the aforementioned areas, there are other ways of dealing with this than by changing planning laws. I am a member of the Residential Landlords Association which recognises an inherent danger in creating ‘no-go HMO zones’ where the abhorrent spectre of social engineering would seek to deny sections of society the freedom to live where they choose. Landlords need flexibility to provide a service that Canterbury City people need and which Article 4 denies them. Flexibility to switch between letting to groups of sharing tenants or families, according to demand, without the need for planning permission each time. Planning law permits mixed-use categories such as C3 and C4. That’s why I can only see losers with Article 4. At worst it makes it impossible, and at least even more difficult, for private sector landlords to provide affordable homes. Especially in these difficult economic times when most people need all the help they can get. Yours sincerely Bob Leydon