Ipswich house-share numbers almost quadruple in 12 months
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House-shares and overcrowding complaints soared in Ipswich in the last 12 months as more homes are split into bedsits.
Figures obtained from Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) show that the number of licences for Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) are up almost 400% in the last 12 months year, from 24 in 2017-18 to 90 in 2018-19.
Along with this the number of complaints of possible overcrowding have more than tripled, from 30 to 98 in the same periods.
While IBC say changes in the law mean more properties need to be licenced, housing experts say the region simply may not have enough homes.
An HMO needs a licence if it is rented out to five or more people from two or more households (not from the same family).
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Why are there so many house-shares?
Sarah Finnegan of the National Housing Federation said: "Fundamentally, there may be more HMOs because there just aren't enough new homes being built.
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"The east of England as a whole needs 46,000 new homes every year to keep pace with demand - but less than two-fifths of that total was built last year. What's more, 18,000 of these homes must be affordable homes, but only 4,300 were built last year.
"It's good that HMO landlords are registering their properties, allowing them to be regulated by the council.
"However, there are often problems with these homes - in the worst cases, they are insecure, overcrowded and even dangerous.
"But, for many people, the only alternative is homelessness."
She added: "The government must invest in building new social housing so that people aren't forced to crowd into HMOs simply because they can't afford any alternative."
What is the council saying?
Ipswich Borough Council is the authority responsible for HMO licences. All the licences they have issued are five years long, in line with government guidelines.
A council spokesman said: "The increase in application is due to a change in the legislation, which makes more HMOs licensable.
"The change in legislation does not seem to have made a difference to empty properties or the numbers of people seeking accommodation."
A change to legislation from October 1 2018 means one and two-storey HMOs must also be licenced.
According to the data provided by IBC, 11 of the properties licenced since then are one or two-storey buildings. There were 66 new properties licenced in Ipswich between 2018-2019.
IBC figures of possible overcrowding complaints relates solely to overcrowding, which might be HMOs or single families.
What does a local estate agent think?
Jonathan Waters, owner of Ipswich's Foxhall Estate Agents, said: "We have only been open a few weeks and we have had a lot of people enquiring about properties that are suitable for turning into an HMO.
"It used to be the case that landlords were looking for properties to let out - HMOs used to be uncommon and people would avoid them. There's a huge long list of criteria to comply with."