Opinion: Rural affordable housing – where next
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Development
CPRE unveils vision for 'idyllic' English countryside in 2026
By Jo Lavis, Rural Housing Policy Review Group member
“Where next for rural affordable housing?” This is the question posed by Lord Best, chair of the Rural Housing Policy Review, launched last week.
He said: “It is now some years since four major reviews on rural affordable housing were completed. Much has since changed, but the need for homes that local people can afford remains. This is an opportune time to ask some searching questions and identify what now needs to be done.”
From 2005 to 2008 intense interest in rural affordable housing led a number of major reports making recommendations aimed at improving its supply. Ten years later, improvement in annual delivery is marginal, affordability ratios are at the same level and access is threatened by unaffordable rents, losses through right to buy and the impact of welfare reform.
While there have been helpful changes to policy, such as the positive approach to rural development in the NPPF and support for community led development in the localism act, they are undermined by policies that do not always take account of the impact in rural areas.
The latest illustration of the need to be very alert to such unintended consequences is the government’s proposal to end provision of affordable housing on sites of less than 10 dwellings. The majority of rural affordable housing is provided on small, private developer led sites or on rural exception sites made viable by a financial contribution from a developer.
Hastoe Housing Association has set up the Rural Housing Policy Review Group with Lord Richard Best as its independent chair. The group’s membership includes the authors of the key reports - Lord Matthew Taylor and Elinor Goodman - plus the movers and shakers of rural affordable housing delivery from across the country.
In the next four months they will review the extent to which the recommendations of the reports have been implemented; what has changed and the emerging challenges; and identify policy and practice that will improve the supply of affordable homes in villages. The Group’s work will culminate in recommendations that it will promote with national policy makers.
Launching the Rural Housing Policy Review, Margaret Clark, chair of the Hastoe Group said, “We are delighted that Richard Best, an authority on affordable housing, has agreed to chair this review. The challenges of providing affordable homes in rural areas have been well researched and are now better understood. Across England, local authorities, housing associations and communities show commitment and creativity to making it happen, but too often against the odds. Our aim is to reinforce what works and to identify any remaining constraints.”