A National Housing Federation (NHF) report Rural Housing: Countryside in Crisis, has highlighted the rural housing crisis and the coalition government failure to tackle it.
In 2008, Lord Taylor’s Living Working Countryside rural economy and affordable housing review made a series of highly publicised recommendations.
The then Tory opposition leader, David Cameron, said, “What we need is a system that encourages local councils to do more.” Yet the Tories and their Liberal Democrat government partners have overseen the lowest levels of peacetime housebuilding since the 1920s. No wonder that over 2 million people are on social housing waiting lists.
Rural Housing examines who can afford a home in the country, second homes, fuel poverty and an ageing population that increases demand for services.
In rural areas around urban hubs in the South West and the South East house prices are completely unaffordable for many households. Nationally, the ratio of mean house prices to median income in rural localities is rarely less than 10:1. Many purchased houses are for second homes with over 1.5 million people having a second address in England and Wales. Cornwall has 23,000 second homeowners. With second homes only inhabited for part of the year then local services suffer. Village shops, schools and bus services collapse.
Meanwhile, many rural homes are poorly insulated with 36% off the gas grid. Fuel poverty is thus higher than in urban areas. 600,000 pensioners currently live in low income households in rural districts.
The report includes examples of where housing associations are supplying new, affordable homes. These are welcome moves but it is apparent that the overall impact is miniscule. NHF state ‘We need a long-term government plan to end the housing rural crisis within a generation’ including ‘clear local policies, ensuring the best contributions from developers, maximising the use of public and private land and for rural councils to say YES to homes.’
Labour meanwhile has published the Lyons Housing Review, which identifies how to build 200,000 new homes annually by 2020. Whilst significantly better this won’t solve the housing crisis in rural or urban localities.
With this in mind, Eileen Short from the Defend Council Housing Campaign that UNITE supports, said, “The housing crisis means we should build council houses everywhere.
“People need secure tenancies, low rents and decent standards. Council housing, with an accountable landlord, is the only way to ensure it. Public land should be used to build 100% public housing. Former schools, clinics and post offices, all bought with our money, should be reconverted into homes with amenities to keep communities alive.”
Rural Housing: Countryside in Crisis -
Defend Council Housing – www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/