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Local people are being priced out of rural areas

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Local people are being priced out of rural areas

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Published by Slough for Westward Housing Group in Housing and also in Communities

Northgate Hartland prefabs Northgate Hartland prefabs

In Rural Housing Week, Westward Housing Group is highlighting the everyday impact of the housing affordability crisis, aging populations in rural areas, high numbers of second homes and fuel poverty.

Northgate is a rural regeneration housing project to provide eight homes in the beautiful village of Hartland – on the rugged north coast of Devon. At a time when a National Housing Federation survey shows that the average worker would need a 150% payrise to afford to buy a home in a rural area, this is of huge importance.

Westward will be demolishing four post-war prefabricated reinforced concrete homes which it took on from Torridge District Council in a stock transfer five years ago. These properties are often susceptible to drafts, poor insulation, ant infestations and are not easy to modernise.  

In their place, eight general needs properties for rental with a first priority for local people of the Hartland parish who have lived or worked there for five years, or whose parents have lived there for 10 years, or key workers under a council-approved scheme, will be built. The number of homes has been doubled by making better use of the space available and they will still have good-sized gardens. 

Mrs Hobbs, a resident, said: “Someone in my family has to work all the hours he can to be able to afford to live in private rented. If there wasn’t social housing in the village then they’d have to move elsewhere. Wages in this area are so low when compared with the cost of fuel bills and rent. The new homes will be more sturdy I suppose and I hope the gardens will still be large enough to have our vegetable plot. As long as the homes are for local people only, it’s fine.” 

Cllr Anna Dart of Torridge District Council (Hartland and Bradworthy) said that affordability was hard in rural areas and that local people had to be proactive themselves in having the drive to strive to improve their lives. 

She said “Housing associations play a paramount role – especially in giving the security of an affordable home for older people who may have lower income later in life. Of course, a smaller community is close knit and you do generally get more support from each other.  In nearby Welcombe, younger people struggle to get on housing ladder as there are so many second home owners who only use them  for holidays and don’t rent.”

“We have a lot of second home owners around here and where they infiltrate the private rented market it means local people can’t afford to rent them. Even if they paid more council tax it would be passed on to their tenants indirectly. 

“In Bradworthy – they have got the Community Land Trust who help people to build their own homes - they put huge passion into helping the young as well as the older generations to stay locally. Villages die if you don’t keep people there of all generations.” 

32% of our customers were in fuel poverty when assessed, and that was before the energy price rises last summer so this will have now risen further.  The new Hartland homes will be built to high sustainability and energy efficiency standards which may include air source heat pumps.  As there is no gas there, this will help address fuel poverty issues and avoid the need for oil heating. 

The new homes are slightly delayed, until Spring 2015, due to delays caused by a good old countryside issue of sparrows nesting in the building structures!  We are now aiming for 1st September demolition as the birds will have finished nesting by then and moved on.

One tenant moved out of her old Northgate home which had become very unsuitable for her needs and moved to another home in Hartland which has been adapted for her by Westward.  The other tenants moved out to a range of homes including privately rented ones locally in March and will be able to move back in within 12-18 months. 

The homes are being provided with a Homes and Communities Agency grant of £55,605 and are being developed in partnership with Torridge District Council.

The residents who have moved out, plus four new households will move into 3 x 2-bedroom houses, 3 x 3-bedroom houses, 1 x 2-bedroom ground floor wheelchair accessible flat and a 1 bedroom first floor flat.

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