SHARED houses will need licences from the council in a bid to drive up the quality of accommodation in some parts of the town.
The new rules will cover Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) where tenants share some facilities such as a kitchen or a bathroom. From September, all HMOs in Castle ward, Gensing, Central St Leonards and Braybrooke - where the majority of these properties are found - will need licences costing between £854 and £1,514 a year, depending on the size.
Hastings Borough Council (HBC) cabinet agreed the move on Monday night, with a report saying that a significant proportion of HMOs were in ‘poor condition’ and areas where they are concentrated are linked with ‘social problems and deprivation.’
Cllr Trevor Webb, lead member for housing, said: “This is part of our quest to make more balanced communities. The link to high levels of crime, poor health and economic activity cannot be questioned. I have been an elected member for 14 years and at every surgery I hear complaints about private sector housing.
“This is a good report and a good day for the town,” he added.
In a public consultation, 85 per cent of people who responded backed the new licensing scheme, including 60 per cent of landlords who were surveyed, although one member of The National Landlords Association warned landlords might ‘abandon Hastings to its fate’.
The Conservative group also supported the move but Cllr Peter Finch - himself a landlord - did question whether the scheme should be rolled out to chosen streets rather than chosen wards and said he hoped responsible landlords would not be unduly penalised. New Tory leader Cllr Matthew Lock wanted reassurances that people would not be left homeless if HMOs closed because of the scheme.
Cllr Paul Barlow who represents Castle ward said: “I really welcome this - we put a lot of effort into improving the street scene and this goes beyond the front doors to improve living conditions in some of our poorest homes.”
Hastings has four times the national average of HMOs and HBC leader Cllr Jeremy Birch hailed the proposals as a big part of his administration’s housing action plan.
He said: “Here’s a mechanism to make sure the cheapskate landlords cannot get away with it. We are absolutely committed to improving housing conditions in Hastings; this action plan will help turn this ambition into reality.”