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Housing The combination of low wages, high living costs and above average house prices is seen as detrimental to the rural economy. Failure to build new homes in rural areas is predicted to have grave consequences for communities which require them to attract young people and jobs. Between 2001 and 2011, house prices nearly doubled, with rural house prices rising faster than urban ones

On average, people working in rural areas earn less than those working in urban areas

Rural homes are more expensive and the influx of urban dwellers into rural parts has put pressure on rural housing

The cost of living has also been rising faster in rural areas (7.7% compared with 4.3% nationally 2012).

Rural dwellers spend £2,000 more a year on essential goods such as fuel, food and home maintenance.

Lack of affordable housing is a key factor that can hold back economic growth. There has been a sharper decrease in social housing in rural areas than elsewhere.

Current Government programmes on housing

Affordable Homes Programme

£1.8 billion to deliver up to 80,000 new homes for affordable rent and affordable ownership. There will also be £3.3 billion for the construction of 165,000 homes after 2015. For the period up to 2015, 10% of approved bids were for rural homes, well below the 25% of the population that live in rural areas.

Affordable Rent Model

Rents are tagged up at 80% of market rent. However, it is believed that this scheme will simply increase rents for the least well off in rural areas.

Right to Buy

The scheme offers discounts of up to £75,000 to eligible social tenants to buy their own homes. Concerns have been raised that this could hinder efforts to meet the affordable housing needs of communities.

Welfare Reform Act 2012

The housing benefit of working-age social tenants will be reduced if their house is deemed too large for their needs. Rural areas, which tend to have a small social housing stock comprised of larger homes, could be affected most.

Rural Exception Sites

Planning permission will be granted for affordable homes for local people on sites that would not usually secure permission. This policy only produces a small number of houses each year – which is better than nothing but only just.

New Homes Bonus

This grant is paid by central Government to local councils for increasing the number of homes. It is paid each year for six years and is based on the amount of extra Council Tax revenue raised for new-build homes, conversions and long-term empty homes brought back into use.

Help to Buy

The Government provides financial support to people who cannot currently afford their first home to get onto the housing ladder. Concerns have been raised that it will create a house price bubble.

Planning reforms

The National Planning and Policy Framework gives a more flexible approach to planning in rural areas.

Neighbourhood planning

The Localism Act 2011 introduced new powers that allow communities to shape new development in their local areas by developing Neighbourhood Plans. The Report’s Recommendations

A larger proportion of funds should go to rural house building projects. The 10% of homes built in rural areas under the Affordable Homes Programme should be a base minimum. The outcomes of the Affordable Rent Model and Right to Buy must be closely analysed. RICS argue that under-occupation penalties should not apply where affected tenants are unlikely to secure another home in the ‘travel to work’ area. Government should see if more homes can be made available under the Rural Exception Sites scheme. Defra should ensure that support is available for rural communities to develop Neighbourhood Plans.

Rural Communities Flyer  

Report by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee