Changing face of residential areas

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Jack lived in his house for more than 30 years – but when he complained to a landlord about the behaviour of the student tenants in the house next door, he was told it was his fault for living in a “student area”.

As far as the landlord was concerned it was “acceptable student behaviour” anyway.

And just in case Jack did not get the point , the landlord forwarded his complaint to all his students tenants in the area – which led to a nasty campaign of name calling.

A pensioner, his experience is, sadly, fairly typical. Hundreds of home owners who bought their houses in the 1970s and 80s have had their lives blighted by an influx of students as landlords took advantage of easy loans in the buy-to-let boom of the last 30 years and the increase in the number of students.

The result in cities across the country - in Leeds, in Newcastle, in Sheffield – has been the death of whole communities.

Living next door to students is not a problem . Living in a street full of them is. It is not individual student houses that is the problem; it is the sheer density.

The community that once existed in the streets around the General Cemetery has been transformed from a typical mix of owner occupying families and pensioners into a student ghetto. As landlords used buy-to-let mortgages to buy up any house that came onto the market so more and more pressure was put on the home owners left behind to escape.

Emma is someone else who got left behind. As she pointed out: “Groups of students come home drunk at different times of the night.

“So you’ve just got off to sleep at midnight, say, and a group of students rolls up the road shouting and laughing and wake you up; an hour later , you’ve settled down again and another lot go past – and so on through the night until four or five o’clock in the morning,” .

If residents do approach individual students or houses, they are taking a risk. Many students are polite and genuinely upset that they have disturbed their neighbours; others are not.

Then there are the student parties.

“No-one objects to the occasional party. I remember one party we were warned about. A student came round and warned people he was having a party that night. We were delighted. He was polite and seemed really considerate. “What he did n’t tell us was that the party would go on for two days and two nights,” said 68-year-old Bill.

Parties can be dealt with. A phone call will usually bring the police out – and complaints to landlords can bring results as well.

Complaints to the universities , however, bring about little or no response. “ As far as they are concerned the students are adults and their behaviour is not their problem.”

Now, what people like Jack, Bill and Emma are looking at is an endless nightmare of sleepless nights and no way of escape.

There has been a lull in the number of buy to let mortgages being issued but they are picking up again now.

In one respect people like Jack and Emma don’t have to worry. They now live in a community where more than 50 per cent of the houses are HMOs and the city Council has now taken action to try to protect residential areas from this sort of cruel erosion by thoughtless students and apathetic landlords.

It has ruled that planning permission for houses in multiple occupation will not be granted in areas where there is already a significant number of such houses.

That is good news for other areas within reach of the universities but for Jack, Bill and Emma it is a cruel irony. It leaves them no way out of the trap because the only people who would be interested in buying a house in an area so dominated by students would be landlords – and the ruling prevents them from doing so. “ We are faced with a choice of living with this nightmare or selling our homes so cheaply we wouldn’t be able to afford anywhere else. What sort of choice is that?” said Emma.

Ironically existing landlords can still sell to other landlords despite the density of students. It is the owner occupiers who cannot.

And meanwhile the old sense of community in areas like this has long gone and first-time buyers are still struggling to find that almost mythical thing called an affordable home.