Rural groups working together to protect housing in rural communities

11 April 2016

A consortium of peers and rural housing groups including the CLA, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Hastoe Housing Group are arguing for a series of measures to be added to the Housing and Planning Bill to help protect the balance of tenures, types and the affordability of housing in rural communities.

The Bill will continue its passage of detailed scrutiny in the House of Lords this week, debating of a suite of amendments supported by the coalition of rural groups. These amendments include:

  • Excluding Starter Homes from Rural Exception Sites to ensure housing on these sites remain affordable for the local community in perpetuity;
  • Exempting rural areas from the levy on the forced sale of council homes which could lead to particularly damaging losses where council homes are particularly scarce, valuable, and hard to replace; and
  • Ensuring that any grant paid for the Right to Buy in rural areas is used for a direct, like-for-like replacement of the properties in the same area.

CLA President Ross Murray said: “The challenge of delivering much needed housing in our rural areas is different to that in our towns and cities. Starter homes may be the answer in many urban areas but forcing them on rural areas won’t work. The risk is they dissuade those bringing forward much needed land for affordable housing as all the benefit goes to the house buyer who may sell in only 5 years.

“Rural communities also need a variety of housing types, tenures and sizes, so allowing Starter Homes to be built instead of rented accommodation will mean those who cannot afford to buy a property will have no accommodation options open to them.

“Similarly, Ministers are yet to indicate where properties replacing those sold under the Right to Buy will be built. Government must be clear that that any replacement property is built like-for-like and in the same area to ensure the continued vibrancy of our rural communities.

“We support Government’s ambition to boost homeownership, but the legislation in its current form could put delivery of rural homes and the vibrancy of our countryside at risk.”

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “The proposals set out in the Government’s bill will not help the people in rural communities who need genuinely affordable homes. Starter homes are beyond the means of most young people in the countryside, and will do little to prevent families from being forced out of their communities because they cannot afford to stay there.

“Vibrant communities are essential to rural life, and to support these communities we must provide a mixture of housing types that also cater for those who cannot or do not want to buy their own home.”

Sue Chalkley, Chief Executive of Hastoe Group, said: “People in rural areas face particular difficulties in accessing an affordable home, with low local incomes, and high property values. The growing affordability gap means young people and families are being priced out of their local rural communities.

“We strongly support the government’s drive to develop more new homes. However, we are concerned that several of the Government’s proposals including the replacement of genuinely affordable homes with unaffordable starter homes, the forced sale of council homes and the lack of a guarantee that homes sold through the extension of the Right to Buy will be replaced, will exacerbate the shortage of affordable homes in rural communities.

“We hope that the Government recognises the need to protect badly needed affordable homes in rural communities and accepts the amendments put forward today by peers across the House.”

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Other groups which form the Rural Housing Advisory Group arguing in favour of these amendments include:

The Rural Services Network

Campaign for National Parks

National Parks England

Action with Communities in Rural England

National Association of Local Councils

Local Government Association

Rural Housing Enabler, Community Council for Berkshire

Rural Housing Alliance

Lincolnshire Rural Housing Association

Falcon Rural Housing Association