A CPRE report into Rural Affordable Housing
Rural Gloucestershire, as with many other parts of rural England, has an increasing housing affordability problem. People in housing need in rural areas face stagnating wages and rising housing costs and find themselves at the acute end of the crisis.
Evermore second homes and properties being converted into short term holiday lets is putting further pressure on an already overheated housing market. This perfect storm is leading to people being forced to leave the communities they love and call home for cheaper accommodation elsewhere, draining skills and economic activity and undermining the provision of vital public services. The report highlights issues affecting the supply of rural affordable housing. They include:
- ‘Affordable housing’ is defined as being 80% of the local market value and ‘affordable rent’ at least 20% below local market rents, but this is still unaffordable for many. The definition does not enable the delivery of sufficient genuinely affordable homes, particularly lower rent homes that are so desperately needed. It is projected that it would take 89 years to clear the social housing waiting list at current build rates.
- As many as half of all parish councils in rural England are not covered by regulations which prevent resale of affordable housing units at market prices or as second homes, leading to further loss of housing stock for rent.
- Most affordable housing in new developments is secured through agreements with developers. These are frequently renegotiated downwards with the developer arguing that they cannot deliver the number of affordable homes specified as the development would no longer be viable.
Recommendations to government include:
- Redefining the term ‘affordable housing’ so that the cost of new affordable homes to buy or rent is directly linked to average local incomes.
- Increasing minimum requirements for affordable housing, with specific targets for social rented homes.
- Promoting greater use of Neighbourhood Plans and Rural Exception Sites to deliver small scale affordable housing on the edge of villages in line with locally assessed need. Neighbourhood Plans are drawn up by local communities and when approved become part of the Local Development Plan and must be considered by local authorities in making planning decisions. Rural Exception Sites are small areas which have not been allocated for development but can be considered for affordable housing which meets local needs.
- Making more funding available to enable more social rented housing be built.
- Supporting community-led development where it meets a local need, for example through Community Land Trusts.
- Supporting local planning authorities and the Planning Inspectorate when they reject poorly designed developments.
- Introducing a second home and short term lets register, with planning controls to regulate the provision of short term lets and powers to levy extra council tax on second homes.