HMO car parking: There is no doubt that the number of cars on the road in the UK has increased over the decades. Over the past 20 years, car ownership has increased 18.5%.

Today we'll be speaking about HMO car parking regulations, if any one of us looks out into our street, we'll see that the typical 2.4 children family has three or four vehicles, perhaps a weekend motorbike or even a campervan too. But, they make the best use of their driveways and have an unspoken understanding with the neighbours (who also have several cars) that everyone will park respectfully and only block their own entrances.

This doesn't present a problem for home owners - at no point are they asked to move to a property with greater parking provision because their teenagers' new cars mean there's less space for someone else. However, when it comes to planning permission for rented accommodation the story can be quite different. Houses in Multiple Occupation, or to coin a more appropriate phrase, professional shared housing, is one of the main tenures to fall victim to restrictive parking policies.

Often located in towns and cities with many employment opportunities, but where young professionals might struggle to buy or rent alone, these types of properties provide premium yet affordable rented accommodation for an increasingly mobile workforce.

For this reason, there are usually strong transport links that allow tenants an easy commute to their place of work. However, the fact that there may be five or more bedrooms in these HMOs means that a car parking debate is ignited and therefore, many initial planning applications get rejected.

Why? Well, not unreasonably, many local authorities point out that in an HMO where six people could potentially live, there should be six car parking spaces so as not to cause off-road parking issues.

It's a fair argument, but one that contradicts findings.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that transport policies have an important role to play in facilitating sustainable development and developments should be designed so that journey times are minimised. Most HMOs, especially within the PPP network, are situated within walking distance of local amenities and transport links. They also make efficient use of land and housing stock, therefore fully supporting the government's goals of sustainability.

It was also stated in an appeal decision from 2006 that 'the emphasis of national policy advice…is on reducing the amount of parking associated with development in order to promote sustainable travel choices and limit land take'. It advises local authorities not to require developers to provide more parking spaces than they themselves wish, and to allow housing developments with limited or no off-street parking in areas with good public transport accessibility.

You can probably count on one hand the amount of town centre flats or apartment blocks with ample off-road parking, so why are HMOs in similar locations penalised?

The inspector went on to state that, 'in my experience, accommodation of the kind proposed tends to attract occupiers with lower-than-average levels of car ownership'. And, this is supported by our own findings that HMO tenants have a lower level of car ownership than the general population.

We previously collated key performance indicators from across the whole PPP tenant network and found that only 58.8% of all tenants use cars (the average proportion of car ownership was 35% (August 2013). Although slightly out of date, these statistics are validated by the results of the Residential Car Parking Research (2007), where it was demonstrated that tenure was a significant influence on car ownership. It stated that, 'local planning authorities will wish to consider tenure carefully when developing car parking policies'.

The 2001 census showed how car ownership reduced dramatically from privately owned accommodation to rented properties. For example, 32% of flat owners had no vehicles, whereas this rose to 62% of those renting flats. Unfortunately, more recent census does not allow this kind of filtering.

A further appeal for a change of use to a five-bedroom HMO in Milton Keynes in August 2008 concluded that there is no proven link between HMO occupation and an increase in car ownership. The inspector was of the view that high levels of car ownership could also arise from continued occupation of the house as a single family dwelling - like our 2.4 children family example above.

The strongest argument for not providing off road parking in a ratio of one parking space to each letting room, or indeed higher, is that of over provision.

This was our experience in Southampton in 2009 when an eight-bedroom HMO was refused due to the over provision of parking with six off-road parking spaces. It apparently 'discouraged alternative modes to the private car in an area of high accessibility to local services and public transport alternatives'. The same application was approved when resubmitted with two parking spaces three months later.

A recent appeal this year that found in favour of PPP gave important support to this argument. The inspector found that potential occupiers would know the amount of parking available at a property when they signed the lease and if parking was an important consideration for them and it was not available, then this would impact upon the attractiveness of the property as a home.

HMO car parking: Our Verdict

We believe there is therefore no evidence to support a requirement for parking provision over and above that generally available to a larger property, of the type suitable for HMO occupation, particularly in light of the move toward sustainable maximum standards.

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