Police in Belfast have dispersed up to 200 young people illegally gathered in the HMO hotspot of Holyland, an area which Northern Ireland’s landlord leader recently told families to leave if they don’t like the partying antics of undergraduate neighbours.
Social media videos show large groups of youngsters gathered and singing loudly in Agincourt Avenue at 2am with little social distancing.
Two people were arrested and six Covid notices were issued at a house party after police were verbally abused and attacked with bottles.
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s breakfast programme in September, Robert Greer, chair of the Landlords Association of Northern Ireland, told listeners “the handful of families who live in this area must be tolerant of student culture” but that “most of us faced with that would move somewhere else and we don’t understand why they don’t do that”.
Greer told the programme that his organisation didn’t like the problems caused by students but that low rents meant places like Holyland would always have large student populations.
Large groups of youngsters have gathered in the area since the academic year started in September.
It’s led to renewed calls for a re-examination of student housing in the city and prompted councillors at Belfast City Council’s licensing committee to write to Stormont’s department for communities, requesting an urgent meeting about HMO legislation which they argue has led to anti-social behaviour.
Green Councillor Brian Smyth believes it is ineffective and adds: “HMO legislation is incredibly complex.
It feels that the legislation is firmly in the hands of landlords. While I accept there are many decent landlords, there are rogue landlords out there, and as a council we are hamstrung. Long-term residents are being hammered.”