Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Monday, 10 August 2009 17:26 UK

Home-share plans spark division

To Let sign in Headingley
Thousands of Leeds University students live in home-shares

The government is considering plans to allow councils to limit the number of homes in multiple occupation - but will some areas really benefit from these proposals?

The leafy Leeds suburb of Headingley and nearby Hyde Park have become home to thousands of students over the last 20 years.

But the influx has led to discontent among some residents who say their communities have been transformed by surging numbers of takeaways, letting agents and bars.

Many locals believe introducing limits on the number of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) would help improve the area and bring back more families.

But students' organisations and landlords' associations say the proposals are discriminatory and believe they could have a negative impact on house prices.

Dr Richard Tyler is from the Leeds HMO Lobby, which campaigns for legislation to control the number of shared houses, and has lived in Headingley since 1971.

You have to queue in fancy dress in order to get into the local pubs
Dr Richard Tyler, Leeds HMO Lobby

He said: "What we have now in Headingley is students, students, students.

"It's not clean, there is a racket going on, day in, day out, and it is a target for burglars because of the large student population.

"We want fewer students and a balanced community with more families and long-term residents, instead of the majority being transient.

"You have to queue in fancy dress in order to get into the local pubs. It's a travesty."

Michael Seymour
Michael Seymour said people could be discouraged from going to university

Michael Seymour, 20, studies at Leeds Metropolitan University and lives with three people in a house in Hyde Park.

Last year he lived with nine others and said house-shares were a "key part" of being a student.

"I think it's only a very small minority of students that cause problems," he said.

"Limiting house-shares could mean more students are forced to remain in halls of residence and that could actually discourage people from coming to university.

"When you're in halls it's like a safety net, but living with others you are completely self-supportive."

He said the trade of some businesses which were reliant on large student populations could also be ruined if house-shares were limited.

'Increased blight'

Hannah Greenslade, community officer at Leeds University Students' Union, said placing limits on HMOs would create needless "red tape and bureaucracy", when students and residents should be encouraged to talk with one another instead.

"Students don't have limitless amounts of money - they want cheap accommodation and will not be able to move into city centre high rises if they are struggling with their finances.

"Assuming students are always going to be a problem and trying to keep them away from other people is a massive mistake."

Chris Town, a landlord in Leeds, said HMOs were often large and difficult and expensive to convert into a different use.

"The only result is likely to be decreased investment in local communities and increased blight," he said.

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