Our research shows new rural housing can turbocharge the economy

28th October 2020

Our findings show that rural homelessness has more than doubled – but with investment, there are huge opportunities to boost communities and the economy by creating new truly affordable homes for those in need.

We’ve worked with two other organisations connected to life in the countryside (English Rural and the Rural Services Network) to do a new analysis on government figures and check the status of rural housing.

Our own analysis of housing figures has shown that homelessness in rural areas has more than doubled in the past two years, with the number of households classed as homeless in rural local authorities increasing by a huge 115% since 2017/18. This is terrifically disappointing and makes clear that the government must invest in rural social housing – urgently.

A chance for a post-pandemic boost

But our collaborative research into economic opportunities shows some much more promising figures. If money is put into creating affordable housing in rural areas, this development could play a huge role in rebuilding the economy post-coronavirus.

'The potential is remarkable. Our calculations show that for every 10 new affordable homes built, the economy will be boosted by a huge £1.4 million.'

The potential is remarkable. Our calculations show that for every 10 new affordable homes built, the economy will be boosted by a huge £1.4 million. Every 10 new houses would also support 26 jobs and generate £250,000 in government revenue.

We know a huge amount of truly affordable housing is needed. So investment into this area, when multiplied by the number of homes needed, could bring about a massive boost to jobs and the economy – even cutting the government’s budget deficit.

What’s stopping them?

Putting money into this area is full of potential to create sustainable communities, house people in need in well-designed homes and support people like key workers who are currently priced out of rural areas.

But the plans from Westminster suggest that politicians don’t share this vision. Under the government’s proposed overhaul of the planning system, currently being debated, the number of genuinely affordable homes delivered could be even lower than now!

Rural councils are warning that they might see potential falls of up to 50% in affordable housebuilding if the duty for developers to build affordable homes (the ‘small sites cap’) is raised, as the government has proposed.

A big challenge calls for a big response

The scale of the need for affordable homes in the countryside is unprecedented, and dramatic steps will be needed. At current social housing build rates, it’ll take more than 150 years to clear rural housing waiting lists. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic will only make this worse.

'We can’t accept that nine in ten care workers are priced out by private rents.'
Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive

Our chief executive, Crispin Truman, has shared his views on what he wants to see happen next, noting that ‘we can’t accept that nine in ten care workers are priced out by private rents.’

He warns against the government’s suggested loosening of planning regulations, saying that this ‘will only make this situation worse and would be the exact opposite of ‘building back better’. Instead, investing in rural social housing now would deliver a boost to the economy at a time when this is so desperately needed.

‘The evidence is crystal clear that this is the best way to provide affordable homes for rural communities while at the same time jump-starting the economy.’

How to help us make this win-win happen

We’re not going to settle for the government’s current proposals for changing the planning system.

Right now, we’re working hard to make our concerns clear to the housing secretary. Our petition resisting the changes has tens of thousands of signatures. Add your name now, and then, with just a few clicks, email your local MP to tell them that you want to see a planning system that supports truly affordable housing.

Want to stay involved on our journey calling for well-designed, affordable homes? Sign up for our email newsletter now or, if you’re able, do become a member or donate to us to help us keep working hard for the countryside.

A silver key bunch hanging from the lock in a white painted door
Jaye Haych / Unsplash