ST ANDREWS TOWN COMMISSION ON HOUSING
Housing Need and Housing Pressures in St Andrews 

In 2012, several local organisations met and resolved to promote a serious study of the housing situation in St Andrews. This group comprised local Fife Councillors, the Royal Burgh of St Andrews Community Council, the University of St Andrews, the University of St Andrews Students Association, the St Andrews Preservation Trust and the Confederation of St Andrews Residents Associations(CSARA). They agreed to constitute themselves as the St Andrews Town Commission on Housing Reference Group and, in turn, to appoint an autonomous team, the St Andrews Town Commission on Housing, whose members would bring a wide range of experience and skill to the study and could be relied upon to be independent in their work.

SUMMARY OF COMMISSION REPORT

In 2012 a group of local organisations resolved to promote a serious study of the housing situation in the town. To carry out this task-, they established the ‘St Andrews Town Commission on Housing’ composed of people who would bring a wide range of experience and skill to the study and could be relied on to be independent in their work. The objective was to identify and examine housing need and housing pressures in St Andrews, how these are currently being met and how they might be better met in the future.

The Commission gathered evidence from a Questionnaire (circulated to the student community and town households) and from interviews with local organisations, town residents, the University, Fife Council and a variety of housing providers. We also interrogated census and local authority demographic and housing data and conducted a survey of published literature and documentary sources. From this evidence it became apparent that two issues overrode all others, (i) scarcity of affordable housing and (ii) pressure on accommodation from University students who represent an unusually high proportion of the town’s population. These became the focus for the study.

In building towards our recommendations we investigated trends in the demographic composition of St Andrews and changes in housing tenure and housing costs. We examined aspects of the local housing market, especially in relation to housing and planning policies. We further examined the difficulties that local residents, including students, have relating to house purchase and rent. We focused in some detail on the provision and scarcity of affordable housing, exploring the impact of ‘Right to Buy’, the absence of public investment over the recent past, and the prospective role of the private sector (through planning obligations). These investigations confirmed and reinforced the Council’s designation of St Andrews as the most pressured housing area in Fife. They further identified the urgent need for the development of a strategic housing plan for the town and the potential of the Kilrymont site of Madras College, when it becomes available, as a location for affordable investment.

Our examination of ‘studentification’ (the process by which specific  neighbourhoods become dominated by student residential occupation) identified the concentration of student HMOs in the centre of St Andrews, the escalating impact of this concentration on house and rental prices and the difficulties it creates for town residents and newcomers wishing to purchase or rent property in the town. While recognising the opposing views of many students and local residents, we concluded that if these problems were to be effectively addressed the scope of the present HMO moratorium needs to be expanded in the context of an increase in the provision of student residential accommodation by both private developers and by the University.

From analysis of all the information and evidence, the summary of our recommendations is inter alia

(i) that Fife Council examine the specific housing needs of St Andrews and develop a strategy for housing in the town;

(ii) that Fife Council, in collaboration with the St Andrews community, address the immediate need for affordable accommodation and actively pursue the building of affordable houses on the Kilrymont site of Madras College when it becomes available, and develop this site in tandem with the extant proposals for the development of St Andrews West;

(iii) that Fife Council determine, in collaboration with the St Andrews community, an appropriate yardstick for student housing density and, meantime, give serious consideration to extending the HMO moratorium geographically to embrace the whole town and to imposing restrictions on the renewal of HMO licences;

(iv) that the private provision of student ‘halls’ of residence be supported, and that the University actively promote the building of additional University-managed student accommodation, both undergraduate and postgraduate;

(v) that a ‘Standing Working Party’ be created comprising community representatives, the University and Fife Council as a forum for reconciling differences and for the advancement of housing development in St Andrews.

The full report can be accessed at:

http://satcoh.blogspot.co.uk/