Social housing waiting lists grow for over half of rural councils

10 March 2020

  • The rural social housing crisis and homelessness threatens to worsen as unmet demand for social housing grows across rural areas.
  • Waiting lists for over half of rural local authorities have grown between 2018 and 2019, and will take 154 years to clear on current building rates.
  • CPRE, the countryside charity, is calling on the Chancellor to use the upcoming budget to invest greater funding in social housing with a fair share allocated to tackle the rural housing crisis.

Waiting lists for social housing in rural communities are on the rise which has led countryside campaigners to call for the Chancellor to announce a significant uplift in investment in homes that people can afford to live in.

According to CPRE, the countryside charity, the backlog in unmet demand for social housing is continuing to grow year-on-year, with hundreds fewer genuinely affordable houses delivered last year compared to the year before. Over half (58%) of rural local authorities’ waiting lists for social housing have grown between 2018 and 2019, according to analysis of the government’s own housing figures.

In 2018/19, a little over 1,000 social homes were delivered across 91 rural local authorities in England. On current building rates, it will take 154 years to clear the backlog in social housing.

The councils that have seen some of the biggest increases in waiting lists include:

    • Suffolk Coastal: from 1,751 households on the waiting list to 4,321 with no social homes delivered for the last three years.
    • North Kesteven: from 890 households on the waiting list to 1,671. With just two social homes delivered in the last year it will take 835 years to clear the backlog

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

‘For too long, rural communities have been left behind. That’s why we’re calling on the Chancellor to use his first budget statement to pump more money into homes that people can afford to live in as part of the government’s levelling-up agenda. Our countryside isn’t just a place to be enjoyed for its beauty, but should be a place where young people can live and work affordably; where couples can start families and elderly people feel connected and secure.

‘These startling government figures show that housing affordability in the countryside is ever-worsening. This trend is pushing young people out of rural areas, as well as those working in essential services. By investing in social housing, we can attract the ‘missing millennials’ back into the countryside, which will boost spending and investment in rural areas while bridging the gap between the generations.’

Overall, the number of people on rural authority housing waiting lists has fallen by around 6,500 people from 173,584 to 167,160 but Cornwall alone accounts for a drop of 7,179 in the number of people waiting. Without Cornwall, the total number of people on rural authority waiting lists across England would have risen.

Last year, government figures showed that the number of families classified as homeless in rural towns and villages across England has increased by 85% between 2018 and 2019. To combat these trends, CPRE, the countryside charity is calling on the Chancellor to use the upcoming Budget to allocate greater funding to tackle the housing crisis, and to deliver more social housing in rural areas.

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

Notes to editors

More analysis on rural homelessness from CPRE, the countryside charity, can be found in our September 2019 article: New CPRE research shines a spotlight on the rural housing crisis.