Reading East MP Matt Rodda tackles houses in multiple occupation

Matt Rodda, Katesgrove councillor and Reading East MP

Reading East MP Matt Rodda used the Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) debate in Westminster Hall on 21 March to ask the government about the national lack of affordable accommodation that has resulted in a proliferation of HMOs in Reading.

During the debate, MPs said that urban communities across the country had suffered from local authorities’ limited ability to manage HMO planning applications.

Matt Rodda said:

In my experience as a former councillor and an MP for a town in the country some way from London, the scale [of the proliferation of HMOs in urban Britain] is quite significant and might not be fully recognised by all colleagues. Some 28% [note 1] of the housing in Reading is now privately rented, and a significant proportion are HMOs.

We have a lot of Victorian and 1920s housing. We have a limited amount of street space for parking; it is not like a rural area, with driveways or land at the side of buildings. One of the big challenges that we face… is the sheer volume of cars generated by HMOs in what are already densely populated areas.

The second serious and practical problem is the large number of additional refuse bins that are created. A sudden change in the housing ownership on a quiet street can dramatically alter its appearance. It can be quite disturbing for local residents to suddenly see large numbers of new bins popping up in front gardens and large numbers of cars.

The other issue is that many small front gardens become overgrown and much less attractive. It can be quite a dramatic change for residents who are used to living in a settled urban environment and who are often from a range of age groups, from young couples and single people to elderly people to suddenly have a proliferation of very often temporary residents who are unable to stay in the area for long and, as a result, unfortunately unable to put down roots.

I would also like to speak up for the residents in HMOs and to consider things from their perspective, because part of the issue is the wider lack of housing supply in the country, particularly in hotspot areas.

Part of the problem is that there is just not enough affordable housing for young people and people moving into these areas. What we really need is more affordable housing to buy and more affordable council housing to rent. I urge the Government to look into this.

Sourced from

For the government, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, Heather Wheeler said:

HMOs play an important role in the private rented sector. They provide a cheaper alternative to other private rented accommodation and flexibility. However, they sometimes pose greater management challenges than single household accommodation. That is why mandatory licensing of HMOs was introduced in 2004 for properties with three or more storeys that are occupied by five or more people.

Since its introduction over a decade ago, it has been successful in raising standards and enabling local authorities to tackle overcrowded conditions and poor management practices. Significant growth in the private rented sector means that some smaller properties are being converted for use as HMOs. Those HMOs do not legally require a licence at the minute, and there are sometimes problems with standards. To address that, we are extending mandatory licensing, which we expect to come into force in October 2018.

I recognise that HMO accommodation can sometimes lead to problems for local residents who live in the vicinity. If there is a concentration of HMOs, the cumulative impact can affect neighbours’ amenities.

Where neighbours have concerns, they can alert the planning authority. It is then for the planning authority to determine whether the works are lawful, and if not what, if any, action to take.

Sourced from

Parts of Katesgrove and Redlands are covered by an article 4 direction which requires planning permission to be obtained for all HMO conversions.


[1] Matt Rodda’s press office said that this data is based on Reading Borough Council’s housing and homelessness page:

Key housing data for Reading from the 2011 census data shows:

66,445 dwellings in Reading

  • 10.7% – local authority owned
  • 6.1% – registered provider owned
  • 83.1% – privately owned.

62,869 households in Reading

  • owner occupier – 34,479 (54.8%)
  • shared ownership – 1,130 (1.8%)
  • local authority rented – 6,322 (10%)
  • registered provider rented – 3,920 (6.2%)
  • privately rented – 16,394 (26%)
  • living rent free – 624 (1%).

Mr Rodda’s press office said that they believe the private rented figure has increased to 28% since the 2011 date of these statistics.

The Office of National Statistics’ latest published data on house tenure in Reading also comes from the 2011 census, although it offers a different figure of 20.41% of households in Reading were privately rented in that year.

% households owned % households privately renting % households socially renting % other households
64.50 20.41 12.75 2.34
  1. Matt Rodda at and TheyWorkForYou
  2. ONS towns and cities analysis (2016, based on 2011 census data)
  3. Housing and homelessness (RBC)
  4. Centre for Cities (Reading)
  5. Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) England and Wales (House of Commons briefing paper, 14 July 2017)
  6. The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987
  7. Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015
  8. Article 4 direction and map for Katesgrove and Redlands
  9. Properties affected by article 4 directions in Reading
  10. Management of HMOs under the spotlight
  11. Management of HMOs – Planning committee to consider changes