Rural housing crisis could be deepened by new Right to Buy policy

For Sale and Sold signs. EMN-140328-131550001
For Sale and Sold signs. EMN-140328-131550001
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The lack of homes in the countryside is “extremely worrying” for rural communities in the eastern region and new Government policies could exacerbate the housing crisis, CLA East has said.

According to a new report from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), there is a 76 percent shortfall in rural affordable housing with the average cost of a house in some countryside communities 11 times greater than average annual wages.

The Institute’s Rural Policy Paper called on rural estate owners to work with Local Authorities to create more affordable new homes, but the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) said landowners, who were already bring forward land forward at considerable undervalue, are likely to be disincentivised by the new Housing and Planning Bill.

CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood said: “The lack of homes in the countryside is extremely worrying for rural communities and the rural economy. The situation in some areas is already critical.

“Many rural landowners have made a considerable investment in their community by offering land to housing associations at below market values for the development of affordable properties for local people in housing need, but policies proposed in the new Housing and Planning Bill could see this supply dry up.

“Extending Right to Buy to housing association tenants in rural areas will reduce the already small number of affordable properties that are already available. There is no doubt that this will also result in landowners being very reluctant to continue making this offer, if those homes are then going to be sold off on the open market and no longer available for rent.

“Similarly, the inclusion of starter homes on Rural Exception Sites will act as a significant disincentive for landowners.

“Although starter homes are classed by the Government as ‘affordable housing’ they can be sold after five years at full market rate so it is questionable why a landowner would donate land or release it at a lower price.”

The Saffron Housing Trust, which has 5500 homes across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Cambridgeshire, is among five housing associations in England set to participate in pilots for the Government’s voluntary Right to Buy scheme, which extends the Right to Buy to tenants of housing associations. Tenants of the Trust’s 4000 homes in South Norfolk have already been invited to express their interest in participating. Interested parties are set to be contacted by the Trust at the end of January.

Mr Underwood said that in order for the scheme to not hit housing provision in the countryside, there should be an exemption for rural communities.

“Settlements of 10,000 or less should have the opportunity to be exempt from Right to Buy, while those with a population of less than 3,000 should have an automatic exemption,” he said.