Allan Leonard stated: “While the Alliance Party welcomes the long overdue policy initiative to regulate the development of HMOs in Northern Ireland, the authorities have appeared to have forgotten how this has come about – extreme over-development in the Holyland area, which has been well documented.
“The Planning Service has inexplicably renamed the Holyland as ‘University’ and excluded it from the proposed 30% HMO limit. The reality is that an estimated 85%-plus of Holyland dwellings are HMOs. I see no reason why a much lower limit for the rest of Belfast can’t be applied to the Holyland. This isn’t about evicting tenants, but ensuring that no retrospective permission is given for an HMO and that no new HMO dwellings are established. To fail this is to effecitvely allow 100% HMOs in the Holyland.
“Yet even a 30% HMO limit is insufficient. In a residential area, most homes will contain families with a couple of adults. Once an HMO is established, the dwelling can have 4, 5 or 6 adults in it. You could still end up with doubling the adult population on a residential street.
“Instead, a lower limit of 20%, 1 in 5 dwellings on the street, allows for population growth but ensures that the residential character of the street and area remains. Indeed, the higher limit of 30% is understood to be the ‘tipping point’ when regular families move out of a neighbourhood. The proposed plan must take greater consideration of families and the need to preserve family dwellings.
Allan Leonard concluded: “Alliance is not opposed to the provision of apartments and flats, to meet the demand from single-occupier professionals. But this need not come at the price of the destruction of family-occupied residential areas. A refocus by policy makers on the benefits of family-based neighbourhoods would bring more sense to the Planning Service’s proposals.”