Groups stand united on rural crisis
The National Housing Federation has formed an ‘unexpected alliance' with the Campaign to Protect Rural England to press the government to tackle the affordable housing shortage in rural areas.
The two groups have now demanded the government publish a clear timetable to show when and how it will respond to a report from the Affordable Rural Housing Commission, which outlined the scale of the crisis.
The report said that while 19 per cent of England's population live in rural communities of fewer than 10,000
people they received just 10 per cent of the 2006/08 national affordable housing pot (Inside Housing, 19 May).
The federation and the CPRE are also calling on the government to ensure that rural housing is ‘recognised explicitly' in the comprehensive spending review.
In addition, the organisations said any new body created by the proposed merger of English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation needed a ‘specific rural housing remit, reflected in its funding priorities'.
They also set out a series of steps necessary to boost the supply of affordable housing, in a charter published this week.
The government must increase public investment in affordable rural housing and make sure local council planners provide enough sites, the charter said.
More use needed to be made of existing buildings and a targeted programme should be run to slash the number of empty properties in rural areas, it added.
It also called for restraint on right to buy in rural areas with acute housing pressure and for more social housing to be built.
The CPRE admitted the alliance was unexpected but said the scale of the problem demanded swift action.
‘There is an overriding need to provide affordable housing in rural areas as opposed to market housing – there is a need to build new housing that better meets the existing need,' Neil Sinden, director of policy at the CPRE, said.
‘We also need to provide housing for essential workers who are contributing to land management, and who are often not high earners.'
The issue of second homes was a real problem in some rural areas and led to an ‘imbalance in the social structure', he added.
Sinden also argued that more affordable homes in rural communities would help boost urban renewal as it would limit ‘outward migration from urban areas of people that we need to remain in urban areas'.
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: ‘Unless we act now, we will create a rural theme park, where only the very wealthy can live, with small pockets of communities living in real hardship. To have a dynamic rural economy, we need homes and jobs in our villages and hamlets.'
But a spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said the lack of affordable housing in rural areas was not a national issue.
It was a regional issue to be tackled by regional housing boards, he said. ‘We will issue a response to the
affordable rural housing commission's findings in due course,' he added.