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Rural areas must have special treatment to tackle housing crisis

6 July 2015

The community of Heyock, Devon The community of Heyock, Devon Photo: © Hastoe Housing Association

CPRE argues that rural areas should be treated as a special case to protect and provide affordable housing

A new paper from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) argues that the special characteristics of rural areas need to be recognised in Government housing policies, such as in the new Right to Buy proposal.

Following recent ministerial speeches citing the dearth of affordable homes [1], A living countryside: Responding to the challenges of providing affordable rural housing suggests that the already low supply of affordable housing in rural areas is being made worse by a lack of Government focus and the impact of a series of policies [2]. The paper argues that the new Right to Buy measure, which extends the scheme to housing association properties [3], is likely to have highly damaging consequences for rural communities faced with disproportionately high house prices and ageing populations - unless rural exemptions can be secured.

An exemption for rural communities under 10,000 people from the Right to Buy extension is one of a number of initiatives proposed by CPRE’s paper to increase affordable housing in the countryside. Just 8 per cent of affordable housing stock is in rural areas [4].

Following changes to national policy in March 2015 that remove the requirement to provide affordable housing contributions on smaller sites [5], the paper argues that local authorities in rural areas should be allowed to set their own thresholds for affordable housing. As the majority of rural housing developments are small scale, and around two-thirds of affordable housing in very small settlements is provided through the system, this would enable authorities to respond to the needs of their communities more effectively.

The paper also argues that a standard and more inclusive definition of ‘rural community’ should underpin new initiatives to increase the provision of affordable housing. Current policy and legal definitions do not apply to vast swathes of rural areas and make it complex to assess the level of housing need. The paper recommends a standard definition identifying communities of fewer than 10,000 in rural local authorities [6].

A living countryside is CPRE’s fifth Housing Foresight paper from policy and research adviser Luke Burroughs [7]. It is being launched today at an event with housing association Hastoe in the House of Lords.

Luke Burroughs, policy and research adviser at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments:

“The provision of affordable housing in the countryside is already in a dire state. To ensure living, sustainable communities in the countryside, rural areas must be considered a special case – starting with an exemption from the proposed extension to Right to Buy. The last thing we can afford to do is eat into our meagre supply of affordable homes.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] Please see Greg Clark’s speech to the Local Government Association on 2 July 2015.

[2] There has been no national assessment of housing need in rural communities since 2006. Further, changes in policy have contributed to stagnant rural affordable housing provision. There have been alterations to the National Planning Policy Framework which mean that the rural exception sites policy can allow an element of market housing when it previously demanded 100% affordable housing. Second, there are now nationally imposed affordable housing thresholds on smaller sites which mean that rural local authorities cannot seek section 106 contributions from schemes of under 10 units (or 5 units in protected areas such as National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

[3] Government announcement on the extension to the Right to Buy scheme: Department for Communities and Local Government, Over a million more people given the chance to own their own home, 26 May 2015.

[4] Department of Communities and Local Government, 2011, English housing survey.

[5] Planning obligations under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) make a development proposal acceptable in planning terms that would not otherwise be acceptable - for instance, by providing a proportion of affordable housing. Focused on site-specific mitigation of the impact of development, section 106 agreements are often referred to as 'developer contributions'.

[6] Local authority areas are designated as rural when 26 per cent or above of their population lives in rural settlements and larger market towns.

[7] Find out more about the papers in the CPRE Housing Foresight series.

If you would like to speak to Luke Burroughs about this in more detail then please contact Benjamin Halfpenny or Jane Seymour on 020 7981 2819.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Sir Andrew Motion, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.

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