South and East Belfast Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Cautious welcome for Environment Minister's HMO plans

Published: 15 December, 2008

South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has given a cautious welcome to Environment Minister Sammy Wilson's plans to deal with HMO's but has said that the proposals do not go far enough and do not take into account the fact that many areas are already well above the proposed HMO limits.

He also said that there must be a joined up approach in dealing with the issue as the Department of Social Development currently has the remit of registering HMO's, a remit that is currently not being adequately carried out, having a knock on effect in dealing with the whole issue.

Alex Maskey MLA said,

"I would welcome the announcement by Sammy Wilson that he is intent on dealing with the HMO issue and that a 10% cap has been placed on HMO development in most parts of Belfast.

"These proposals, however, do not go far enough. The Minister has stated that he will permit HMO concentration to rise to 30% in areas where they high levels of such accommodation already exist. This ignores the reality that the level of HMO's in many areas, particularly in South Belfast, are already well above the 10% and 30% limits.

"To add to this, the Department of Social Development, tasked with registering HMO's, is failing to adequately fulfil this remit. This highlights the need for a cross-departmental approach to tackling this issue.

"I have already met with Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie and this issue was high on the agenda. I have also requested a meeting with Sammy Wilson to discuss the HMO issue, as well as student accommodation and other planning issues".

"I am concerned that today's announcement by Sammy Wilson amounts to an admission on the part of his department that they do not see a way of reversing the high number of HMO's in areas such as the Holylands. I have already raised a number of ideas which would help tackle the HMO issue with Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie, and I intend to discuss these with Sammy Wilson also. By being imaginative and working together with all of the relevant agencies, Departments, Universities and residents groups this issue can be resolved once and for all, to the benefit of all".

He continued,

"Today's reality is that many developers and property developers are now turning what would formally have been regarded as HMO's into apartments. This does not resolve the many problems associated with HMO's, it merely changes the name of the problem. What is more worrying is that it would appear that there are some within the Planning Service who are happy to go along with this deception. This must be tackled".

He concluded,

"The fact that the Environment Minister recognises that a problem exists, and has stated that he is committed to dealing with it is to be welcomed. However, his announcement ignores the fact that many areas, particularly in South Belfast, already exceed his proposed 10% and 30% caps. What is required is a plan to tackle the proliferation of HMO's to reverse the number of HMO's in these areas. This requires a cross-departmental approach at Executive level. It also requires tackling the problem, not just renaming it as some within the Planning Service seem content to do". CRÍOCH