17/05/2006

Rural housing crisis can be solved, says report

Rural communities need a major increase in subsidised housing, if the next generation is not to be priced out of the countryside, according to the independent Affordable Rural Housing Commission in its report to Government launched today.

The report sets out practical actions that should be taken if this affordable housing is to be built. Without such action, the Commission warns, rural communities are being undermined as many people on lower, and even average, incomes are leaving the countryside to find a home they can afford.

The 12-member Commission concluded that a minimum of 11,000 affordable houses are needed a year in market towns and villages to meet identified need – as part of an approach that allows these communities to evolve and provide homes for people from all walks of life.

The report called on the Government to provide more public funding for rural housing, and to give the countryside a fair share of resources, urging planners, and rural communities themselves, to actively encourage well-designed affordable housing as part of mainstream planning policy.

Elinor Goodman, chair of the Commission, said: “If we don’t act now, more and more people will be priced out of the countryside - leaving rural communities to increasingly become dormitories for the better off and places where people go to retire or for the weekend. This, in turn, will undermine the social fabric of rural life.

“Our investigation has shown us that much good work is already being done. We’ve seen how affordable housing can improve the overall quality of a village and underpin its future. But, to meet the scale of housing need in rural communities in all regions, we recommend that 11,000 affordable homes need to be built – that’s equivalent to around six new houses a year in each rural ward in England.”

The Commission concluded that, while not a major problem across the country, the issue of second homes was a matter of “real concern” in some communities.

The Commission was set up last July, in response to widespread concern about the implications for rural communities in England of a shortage of affordable housing to rent or buy, to come up with practical solutions that would improve access to affordable housing for those who live and work in rural areas.

(SP/KMcA)

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