Of course, the year has been dominated by the HMO Consultation. A report on the Consultation should have been published within three months of its ending in August, but it has still not appeared.
Apparently, the response was three times greater than expected – some 900 responses! Hopefully, the majority of these were from local residents, cllrs and MPs – but landlords and students were also campaigning against potential changes in the law. The volume of responses has caused the delay (the government has only one part-time officer dealing with them – Cllr McGall has spoken to her and she hopes to publish by the end of the year).
Meanwhile, we also have a new Minister for Housing & Planning, John Healey MP, who claims he is not well enough briefed as yet to make any decisions. Below is his reply to a question in the Commons, on 8 December 2009: –
Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West) (Lib Dem): Landlord licensing is one solution, but the use classes order is far more significant in many areas with concentrations of HMOs. Will the Minister give me an update on the progress of the Government’s examination of that? Does he agree that restrictions on the number of HMOs in such areas will increase the balance of the community and be in the interests of all?
John Healey: Indeed, and that is why our general policy is to promote mixed communities, as they tend to be better balanced and more stable. The hon. Gentleman asked for an update on our examination of whether changes to the use classes might help us pursue our objectives. At present, we are sifting the 900 or so responses that we have received to the consultation, and I hope to be able to update the House on this shortly.
Several MPs, including our Don Foster, are lobbying the Minister to take action. The danger is that an early election will sabotage all the progress we have made. If you haven’t already done so, it would be invaluable if you could lobby Don Foster MP, and ask him to put what pressure he can on the Minister to move things along.
Meanwhile, in the hope of a positive outcome in due course…