The government announced the new funding as part of a package of support intended to unleash rural opportunity.
Richard Quallington, Executive Director of the charity Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), said: “The money being proposed for Rural Housing Enablers is significant, timely and very much welcome. The shortage of affordable housing is perhaps one of the biggest threats to opportunity in the countryside. But rural communities need to have a say in the homes that get built.
Members of the ACRE Network have lengthy experience of working with residents and parish councils to conduct housing needs surveys – evidence that is used to secure planning permission for small scale rural developments which typically include affordable homes made available to people with a connection to the local area”.
The past few years have seen housing prices in the countryside rise at a quicker rate than in urban areas placing additional strain on household finances and forcing many people to move. In turn, this can affect the viability of local businesses and services.
According to recent government statistics, the most affordable homes in rural areas cost 8.8 times earnings compared to 7.6 times in urban areas (excluding London). A reduction in the number of private rental properties has also caused monthly rents to soar in the countryside since the pandemic.
Whilst the scale of the rural housing crisis is significant, there are good examples of where communities have risen to the challenge and welcomed small-scale housing developments tailored to local needs.
In Roxwell Essex, Laura Atkinson, the Rural Housing Enabler employed by RCCE helped the parish council identify households in need of affordable housing locally and brokered relationships between planners and housing association, English Rural. This led to the development of Glebe Meadow, a small development of seven homes, five of which were affordable rental properties benchmarked at the local housing allowance rate. One such home went to Abi and Gabriel, a young working couple with strong connections to the village who had previously moved from one private rental property to another in a desperate search for somewhere affordable to live.
The £2.5 million committed by Defra to rural housing enabling demonstrating the government is keen to scale-up these locally led schemes.
Notes to editors
Media contact: Phillip Vincent, firstname.lastname@example.org, 01285 425645.
ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is a charity speaking up for and supporting rural communities. It is the national body of the ACRE Network, England’s largest rural grouping of community support charities which together reach over 35,000 community groups annually, and lever in over £34 million each year in support of initiatives that equip people with the knowledge, skills, and connections needed to improve their local community.