Why I’m calling for safer housing for students in Selly Oak

Article by Steve McCabe MP

As the Member of Parliament for Selly Oak I’ve seen the quality of privately rented, accommodation deteriorate in this area over several years; at the very time when others involved in student accommodation are rightly demanding higher standards. That’s why I’m calling for a crackdown on rogue landlords and cowboy builders.

My office is inundated with complaints about planning arrangements. The more I’ve looked at this, the more convinced I’ve become that we need tougher enforcement rules to tackle rogue landlords, especially those that abuse permitted development rights to create unsafe multiple occupation housing. This relaxation, introduced in 2013, has exacerbated the problem with many neighbourhoods now blighted by hideous additions designed to exploit the permitted development guidelines. As an area, Selly Oak has been particularly affected and I’m concerned not only with the aesthetics but that the quality of some extensions poses a serious safety risk to students attending the University of Birmingham.

Unscrupulous developers are buying up family homes in droves and tacking on unsightly extensions in an effort to cram in as many students as possible, so as to maximise profits. Many of these extensions don’t have planning permission and there are no proper checks to ensure these houses are safe to live in which is why I intend to take this fight to Parliament.

On November 24th I’ll be bringing forward the ‘Protection of Family Homes (enforcement and permitted development) 10 Minute Rule Bill.’ It will:

-  Set out the requirement for extensions built under permitted development to be independently checked against building regulations to ensure they are safe to live in

-  Require the Department for Communities and Local Government to produce clearer guidance for Planning Authorities on when enforcement action should be taken and will make it compulsory for local Planning authorities to publish a detailed enforcement plan.

-  Introduce a right of appeal to an independent body when a planning authority decides not to take enforcement action against a breach in planning law.

-  Introduce new powers for planning authorities to fine developers who breach planning law as a deterrent when enforcement action is not considered ‘expedient’

I recently met with Guild President Jack Mably and Housing Officer Roberto Sorrentino to discuss some of these issues. We agreed on the need for more licensing and I welcome the work of SHAC and the Community Wardens and we’re on the same page when it comes to dodgy housing. There are many pressures on students, they shouldn’t have to worry about ending up in sub-standard conversions, at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords.

Birmingham City Council also needs to take more action to ensure that building standards are adhered to but this of course can only be achieved if robust legislation is put in place by the government. I'm determined to keep pushing this issue both locally and in Parliament and I would welcome hearing from students that have been affected by poor quality student housing, you can email me or tweet me using #protectourhomes.

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