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Landowners can help solve the rural housing crisis

18 November 2016

Report suggests ways to help landowners provide affordable housing for local communities

A new paper released today by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) argues that rural landowners can play a crucial role in solving England’s rural housing crisis, and sets out ways to better enable them to do so [1].

Under current policy, rural landowners can provide sites at below-market prices to build housing for local people in need - but recent legal and financial changes have made this increasingly difficult. On Solid Ground shows how we could make it easier for landowners to offer their land for affordable housing, including through changes to tax legislation and to councils’ waiting list systems for social housing.

Rural communities are particularly hard-hit by dwindling affordable housing stock: 8% of rural housing is classed as affordable compared to 20% in urban areas [2]. This has seen the average age in rural communities rise as young people are priced out, and services like post offices, pubs and shops have closed as workers and potential customers are forced to move elsewhere [3].

Trinley Walker, policy and research adviser at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, comments:

“Landowners understand the pressures facing rural communities, and they are uniquely placed to help keep these towns and villages thriving. There is a clear appetite among landowners to help create affordable housing for local people, but the current system discourages them from doing so.

“Government must do more to address the lack of affordable housing in rural areas. Removing some of the obstacles preventing landowners from providing land is a straightforward way to get more houses built for those who need them.”

Members of the CLA provide nearly 40% of all private rented housing in rural areas [4]. CLA President Ross Murray says:

“Landowners have strong multi-generational ties to their communities and are often local employers so are well-placed to help increase the supply of affordable homes. We want life in our villages – to support young families, local workers and those in the community who are ready to downsize. At a time when housing costs are spiralling, providing more affordable housing is an excellent way to sustain rural communities for future generations and ensure people have the opportunity to live and work in the countryside.”

To support rural landowners in providing land for affordable housing, CPRE’s new paper proposes:

  • Giving landowners power to ensure that their land will benefit people with local connections. Landowners would be more inclined to provide land for affordable housing if they had more confidence that this would directly benefit those in their local community [5]. The paper suggests changes to letting systems, many of which currently don’t allow for prioritising local tenants. 
  • Fewer tax barriers that discourage landowners from providing affordable housing. The current tax system is unfavourable to landowners who let their land to housing associations or directly to tenants. The paper suggests measures that would see landowners paying reduced tax on profits from providing affordable housing, and being able to offset losses from these investments against other taxable income.

‘On Solid Ground’ is the seventh paper in in CPRE’s Housing Foresight series, which aims to provide innovative policy solutions to critical housing issues.


Notes to editors

[1] On Solid Ground: Encouraging landowners to invest in rural affordable housing, CPRE, 2016. This research was kindly supported by Hastoe Housing Group.

[2] Department for Communities and Local Government, English housing survey, 2011

[3] Between the 2001 and 2011 Censuses, a 3.6% decrease was observed in rural areas in the volume of the population aged between 30-44. This is compared to a 1.7% decrease in urban areas.
(Office for National Statistics, 2011 Census Analysis – Comparing Rural and Urban Areas of England and Wales, 2013. Available here

[4] The CLA represents 32,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses. The CLA says its members are keen to build and manage their own affordable homes as part of the housing mix, but that they are often put off making more land available for affordable projects over concerns the homes will not stay affordable for the community in perpetuity. They are also concerned by a tax system that does not encourage releasing land for affordable housing.

[5] In a 2011 survey, 75% of estate owners stated ‘acting to benefit the community’ as a reason why they would consider putting forward a site for affordable housing.
(Smiths Gore. Incentivising landowners to release sites for affordable housing: A report to Lincolnshire Rural Affordable Housing Partnership, 2011.)


Appendix: Case studies
Summaries of case studies below; more detail is available in the report

Burwell, Cambridgeshire
Hastoe Housing Association made contact with landowner Patrick Faircliffe through a local magazine article that called for local landowners who would consider releasing land for social housing. Mr Faircliffe sold land to Hastoe as a rural exception site on which 11 dwellings were granted outline planning permission. The entire site was approximately eight acres and, as a single exception site in each phase, the land was sold for a nominal value per plot.

Kinlet, Shropshire

Shropshire Rural Housing Association’s development in Kinlet was the second phase on the site, following a traditionally built first phase which was finished in 2000. The land for both phases was purchased from the local landed estate – freehold in the first phase and on a 99-year leasehold interest, with modest ground rent, in the second phase. 

The family that owns the landed estate has ties to the village that go back to the 17th century. While wanting to maintain a viable estate, the family also wanted to ‘do the right thing’ for the village. 

Holkham Estate, north Norfolk

The Holkham Estate is a privately owned 25,000-acre estate with activities in agriculture, leisure and tourism and property. In 2000, the estate built six almshouses in the nearby village of Burnham Market which have occupancy restrictions. The estate is looking to review the provision of local housing and hopes to build 20-30 new properties for those working locally and in need of housing.

The Holkham Estate says that, as well as providing homes for people with local connections and local workers, it also helps maintain the social fabric of the community.


For more information please contact Benjamin Halfpenny on 020 7981 2819 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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: Emma Bridgewater, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.

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