Liverpool to crack down on multiple occupation homes

Liverpool City Council’s cabinet has approved the launch of a public consultation into the rise of HMOs across the city and its impact on anti-social behaviour. Tony McDonough reports

houses, homes
Liverpool is looking to clamp down on the rise of houses in multiple occupation


Liverpool is looking to crack down on the rise of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) across the city, claiming it creates anti-social behaviour and waste problems.

Now Liverpool City Council’s cabinet has approved the launch of a public consultation on implementing a key planning change – called an Article 4 Direction – which means abolishing permitted development rights to convert a house into a five-bedroom HMO.

Over the past decade, Liverpool has seen a significant growth in the number of HMOs with its booming student population and current housing benefit rules fuelling a demand for single person households.

Fears have now been expressed that the volume of HMOs has reached “a dangerous tipping point” which is threatening the housing offer in the city for families and causing parking, anti-social behaviour and waste collection issues in certain neighbourhoods.

Currently, larger HMOs – six bedrooms and above – must seek planning permission, meaning that the council has some ability to influence where and how larger HMOs are developed.

Following a two month consultation, scheduled to begin by late October, the council will then take a vote on whether to implement the same rules for smaller HMOs. If implemented the decision will have no impact on existing HMOs.

The latest commitment made in Liverpool’s Draft Local Plan to utilise Article 4 to control smaller HMO development elsewhere in the city. The move to establish a public consultation also follows a review in 2019 which set out to establish the intensity of HMOs in all neighbourhoods and identify evidence of environmental harm.

The review was undertaken by independent planning consultancy firm ARUP, which studied a wide range of housing and criminal data and carried out a programme of interviews and local consultations, and have recommended the city council looks at the option of introducing Article 4 across the inner core of the city, where some streets feature more than 50% of HMOs.

Joe Anderson
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson says the city needs to ‘reset the dial’


This approach would include the wards covering all of Anfield, Tuebrook and Stoneycroft, Kensington and Fairfield in the north, Central, Riverside and Princes Park – around the city centre – and Picton, Greenbank and Wavertree wards in the south. It also recommends implementation in small elements of Kirkdale and Church wards.

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, said: “Liverpool needs to offer families of all different sizes and people with a whole host of needs a variety of good quality, affordable homes. If unchecked HMOs will reduce that offer which is why we need to reset the dial whilst developing more social housing across the city.

Changing the planning rules by introducing Article 4 will not just protect the wellbeing of the people who live in these communities, it will also help protect the balance of our housing offer – which, in some areas, is close to a dangerous tipping point of being dominated by one bedroom bedsits.

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