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Homes for heroes: huge lack of affordable homes for rural key workers

6 July 2020

New analysis finds over nine in ten rural areas are unaffordable for care workers in the private rented sector as rural housing week 2020 begins.

CPRE, the countryside charity, and English Rural are calling on the Chancellor to use the upcoming stimulus package to invest in well-designed, genuinely affordable housing for key workers in the communities they serve.

Average private rents in rural areas are unaffordable for vast numbers of key workers, according to new analysis of government figures by CPRE, the countryside charity, released at the start of Rural Housing Week. Having more locally-based key workers boosts the resilience of rural communities, but for care workers alone, over nine in ten (96%) of rural areas are unaffordable to live in – that is, where private rent would cost more than a 35% of their post-tax income.

CPRE and English Rural believe key workers should be able to afford to live in the areas they serve, especially in rural communities where limited transport links do not allow for reliable travel in-between towns and villages. The analysis shows that currently, private rents in many rural local authorities are unaffordable for key workers including:

  • Care workers: average private rents are unaffordable for care workers in 96% of rural areas
  • Hospital porters: average private rents are unaffordable for hospital porters in 93% of rural areas
  • Farmworkers: average private rents are unaffordable for farmworkers in 86% of rural areas
  • Youth workers: average private rents are unaffordable for youth workers: in 74% of rural areas
  • Bus and coach drivers: average private rents are unaffordable for bus and coach drivers in 67% of rural areas
  • Nurses: average private rents are unaffordable for nurses in 27% of rural areas.

The findings also show that, for each of the above key workers, average social rents are affordable in the vast majority of rural local authorities. However, the backlog of demand for social housing in rural areas is continuing to grow year on year. Fewer genuinely affordable houses were delivered last year than the year before, and on current building rates, it will take more than 150 years to clear the backlog in social housing.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said:

‘Keyworkers have been the backbone of our response to the coronavirus pandemic – their efforts have been heroic under incredibly difficult circumstances. But today’s analysis shows that rural communities will not get the support they need from key workers unless we build more affordable homes in rural areas. It shows the housing crisis is not only a barrier to renting and buying – it threatens the resilience of communities when critical key workers aren’t able to live in the communities they serve.

‘The Chancellor has a historic opportunity to use the upcoming stimulus package to invest in quality and genuinely affordable homes and reinvigorate rural social housing build rates. Countryside communities need care workers, nurses, bus drivers and all the other highly valued key workers to live amongst them. The government should not miss a beat in investing in genuinely affordable homes for the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic.’

It’s clear that the building of social housing in rural areas has stagnated. But investing in tackling the backlog and building more social housing could ensure rural communities have the support from key workers they deserve and could also provide a big boost to the economy. If the households currently on the social housing waiting lists in rural areas were all paying average social rents in their area rather than average private rents, they would collectively save more than half a billion pounds a year – to be spent in the rural economy helping the post lockdown recovery. That’s why CPRE and English Rural are calling on the government to use the upcoming stimulus package to allocate £12.8 billion of funding to tackle the housing crisis, and deliver genuinely affordable and well-designed homes for rural communities.

Martin Collett, Chief Executive of English Rural, said:

‘Rural communities have shown how resilient they can be over the last few months. Villages have adapted to new ways of working and serving their communities and have uncovered opportunities to rebuild a new normal and aspire to a ‘Rural Renaissance’.

‘That’s why it’s critical that Rural Housing Associations, such as English Rural, with the help of the government and the communities they serve, continue to support and invest in affordable rural homes.

‘Our small-scale, well-designed rural developments are always built in partnership with the local community. They stimulate the local economy by creating jobs, customers for local businesses and somewhere for local workers to live. Most importantly, they help to keep families and support networks intact and support low-income keyworkers, whose value has been rightly recognised over recent months. Without homes, there are no people. And without people, there are no communities.’

Please call our Media Relations Lead, Jonathan Jones, on 020 7981 2819 / 078 3529 1907 for further information.