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Government needs to address the acute housing problems facing growing numbers of families priced out of booming rur...
Government needs to address the acute housing problems facing growing numbers of families priced out of booming rural property markets, according to a new report published today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The report shows how young people needing homes in these rural areas are in a worse position than their counterparts elsewhere and that urgent action is needed:

* housebuilding levels are falling in rural areas - down 4% from 2003-5, compared with a 19% increase in urban areas;

* the proportion of new housebuilding which comprises affordable - usually subsidised - housing has been just 6%, compared with 16% in the more urban districts;

* Right-to-buy sales of council housing have reduced numbers of rented homes by some 36% since 1980 in local authority areas that include rural communities. The position is so acute that in some communities the entire council stock has now been sold.

These factors are compounded by the pressures on existing rural housing - from retired people, from those commuting to jobs elsewhere, from second home purchasers, etc.

The report calls for:

* better use of the existing housing stock - empty properties, unused farm buildings, under-occupied social housing, etc.

* a doubling in the current level of social housebuilding funded by the Housing Corporation in rural areas, adding 1,750 homes annually in smaller rural settlements and 3,000 homes in larger rural settlements;

* providing more homes for individuals and families in the 'intermediate housing market' who cannot qualify for social housing yet cannot afford even the cheapest homes for sale;

* recycling the proceeds from council housing sales and the extra council tax resulting from reductions in the discounts on second homes;

* and, very importantly, employing an extra 100 Rural Housing Enablers (RHEs) to work with parish councils, land owners, planning authorities, housing associations and others, to determine housing need, and find suitable sites.

JRF rural housing policy forum chair Lord Best said:

'In our visits to various rural locations, we have seen and heard the impact of losses of council housing and the failure to replace them: the next generation of local people with a claim to live in those communities face seemingly insuperable housing problems. Our report highlights some possible ways forward.'


The Joseph Rowntree Foundation established the Rural Housing Policy Forum in 2005. It has involved a number of members of the House of Lords, working with expert colleagues, to establish the extent of housing problems in rural areas and to bring forward recommendations to address these. The forum's report has been circulated to the members of the government's Affordable Rural Housing Commission which itself is due to report shortly.

The core membership of the Rural Housing Policy Forum was Lord Best (Chair), Lord Cameron, Baroness Miller, Margaret Clark, Peter Hetherington, Mark Shucksmith (Secretary), Emily Trevorrow/Libby Sandbrook and Andrew Williamson, with encouragement from Baroness Byford, Lord Haskins, the Bishop of Ely and the Bishop of Oxford.

A copy of the full report, Homes for rural communities: Report of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Rural Housing Policy Forum is available. This explains the problems in detail and sets out full evidence of their greater severity in rural areas, as well as why this matters. More than 20 far-reaching recommendations are proposed.

A summary document is available here.

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