The pandemic continues to exacerbate the rural housing crisis, with demand greatly outstripping supply. Lockdown and homeworking have resulted in a renewed interest in living in the countryside, pushing up house prices and rents, whilst rural homes are being turned into holiday lets to take advantage of the staycation boom, further reducing the availability.
In June 2021, Cornwall had over 10,000 listings on Airbnb, compared to only 69 listings on Rightmove. In the village of Cwm-yr-Eglwys in Pembrokeshire, 48 of the 50 dwellings are holiday homes. The lack of housing for local people has severe impacts on rural communities, rural businesses, and the economy in rural areas and is considered a key contributor to the current labour shortages in agriculture, tourism, and hospitality.
Whilst one of the greatest challenges for rural areas has been its ageing population, the growing demand from younger generations to live in the countryside could bring many benefits for all residents. A more diverse demographic could support a wider range of local services, amenities, and businesses. However, this opportunity relies on a sufficient and diverse supply of rural homes, and this relies on a planning system which is fit for purpose, and which encourages and enables rural development.
In March, the CLA published a report, Sustainable Communities: the role of housing in strengthening the rural economy, which looks at the opportunities and challenges facing rural communities in a post-pandemic England and Wales, highlighting the importance of organic, incremental growth in rural areas. The report sets out five recommendations, which are critical for rural renewal, for levelling up the economy and for diverse, resilient communities.