Homes ruling 'slap in the face' for rural families, says ACRE
by Claire McGine, Head of Communications

Changes to housing policy announced by the Government will have a devastating effect on affordable homes for rural families, ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) said today.

The leading rural network spoke out after Housing Minister Brandon Lewis announced the removal of Section 106 agreements from sites of fewer than 10 homes.

These agreements – known as planning obligations - require developers to provide contributions, such as affordable homes or playgrounds, to offset negative impacts caused by construction and development.

ACRE had warned the Minister that small-scale developers may simply stop building affordable homes if the changes went ahead.

The charity – the national voice for England’s 38 rural community councils - had called on the Government to exempt all sites in communities with a population under 3,000.

ACRE’s Head of Rural Insight Nick Chase said: “This decision by the Housing Minister will have a devastating effect on affordable housing for rural communities up and down the country.

“Despite warnings from housing associations and other rural organisations, the Minister has gone ahead with a policy change that could reduce the number of rural affordable housing on small sites to nil over the coming years.

“This decision takes power away from local communities who should have the right to say what type of housing they want in their area. This is a real slap in the face for hard-working families on low incomes. They will now find it almost impossible to afford a house in their community and may be forced to move if rents continue to rise.

“There will, no doubt, be an increase in housing in rural areas as a result of these changes – but we expect to see developers only building housing at market prices to obtain the greatest profits. More executive homes won’t provide a sustainable future for our communities.

“We’re hugely disappointed that Mr Lewis has chosen to ignore our fears.”

Mr Chase said that figures from DCLG showed that in 2012/13, 66pc (1,905) of homes in settlements under 3,000 were delivered through Section 106 agreements.

He added: “Rural exception sites are not affected by the Minister’s decision – but latest figures showed these only delivered 981 homes across the country in a year.”

Notes to editors:

  • Rural house prices have risen 82% in 10 years, faster than urban areas. (Simple Average House Price Sales, The Land Registry)

  • In 2011, the average lower quartile house price was 8.3 times the average lower quartile earnings in predominantly rural areas. This compares with 7.1 in predominantly urban areas and 7.3 in England as a whole.