Rural areas should have special treatment to tackle housing crisis

9th Jul 2015

CPRE argues that rural areas should be treated as a special case to protect and provide affordable housing

A new paper from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) argues that the special characteristics of rural areas need to be recognised in Government housing policies, such as in the new Right to Buy proposal.

Following recent ministerial speeches citing the dearth of affordable homes, A living countryside: Responding to the challenges of providing affordable rural housing suggests that the already low supply of affordable housing in rural areas is being made worse by a lack of Government focus and the impact of a series of policies. The paper argues that the new Right to Buy measure, which extends the scheme to housing association properties, is likely to have highly damaging consequences for rural communities faced with disproportionately high house prices and ageing populations - unless rural exemptions can be secured.

An exemption for rural communities under 10,000 people from the Right to Buy extension is one of a number of initiatives proposed by CPRE’s paper to increase affordable housing in the countryside. Just 8 per cent of affordable housing stock is in rural areas.

Following changes to national policy in March 2015 that remove the requirement to provide affordable housing contributions on smaller sites, the paper argues that local authorities in rural areas should be allowed to set their own thresholds for affordable housing. As the majority of rural housing developments are small scale, and around two-thirds of affordable housing in very small settlements is provided through the system, this would enable authorities to respond to the needs of their communities more effectively.  

The paper also argues that a standard and more inclusive definition of ‘rural community’ should underpin new initiatives to increase the provision of affordable housing. Current policy and legal definitions do not apply to vast swathes of rural areas and make it complex to assess the level of housing need. The paper recommends a standard definition identifying communities of fewer than 10,000 in rural local authorities.

A living countryside is CPRE’s fifth Housing Foresight paper from policy and research adviser Luke Burroughs. It is being launched today at an event with housing association Hastoe in the House of Lords.

Luke Burroughs, policy and research adviser at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments: “The provision of affordable housing in the countryside is already in a dire state. To ensure living, sustainable communities in the countryside, rural areas must be considered a special case – starting with an exemption from the proposed extension to Right to Buy. The last thing we can afford to do is eat into our meagre supply of affordable homes.”

You can find the other papers in the CPRE Housing Foresight series here.