ACRE welcomes government boost for small-scale rural affordable housing schemes

9 June 2023

A new £2.5 million fund will support the work of Rural Housing Enablers who broker conversations between residents, councils, and builders about securing housing that meets local needs.

The government announced the new funding as part of a package of support intended to unleash rural opportunity.

Richard Quallington, Executive Director of the charity Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), said: “The money being proposed for Rural Housing Enablers is significant, timely, and very much welcome. The shortage of affordable housing is perhaps one of the biggest threats to opportunity in the countryside. But rural communities need to have a say in the homes that get built.

Members of the ACRE Network have extensive experience working with residents and parish councils to conduct housing needs surveys – evidence that is used to secure planning permission for small-scale rural developments which typically include affordable homes made available to people with a connection to the local area”.

The past few years have seen housing prices in the countryside rise at a quicker rate than in urban areas placing additional strain on household finances and forcing many people to move. In turn, this can affect the viability of local businesses and services.

Jane Colthup, Chief Executive of Community First Yorkshire, said: “As the Rural Community Council for North, South, and West Yorkshire, we know that rural communities face a unique challenge in accessing affordable homes. We look forward to this new fund supporting the delivery of much needed genuinely affordable and well-designed homes for rural communities.”

A 2021 survey by CPRE The Countryside Charity of more than 1,000 rural 16 to 25 year olds found that only two in five young people living in rural areas (43%) anticipate staying there over the next five years, with genuinely affordable housing being their biggest concern (72%).

“Social housing waiting lists continue to grow –separate analysis shows the backlog would take 121 years to clear in rural areas. Hopefully this new money and focus on rural housing enablers will help mitigate the exodus of young people who were born and raised in rural areas who feel unable to afford to live in the rural places they grew up in.”

According to recent government statistics, the most affordable homes in rural areas cost 8.8 times earnings compared to 7.6 times in urban areas (excluding London). A reduction in the number of private rental properties has also caused monthly rents to soar in the countryside since the pandemic.

Whilst the scale of the rural housing crisis is significant, there are good examples of where communities have risen to the challenge and welcomed small-scale housing developments tailored to local needs.

The £2.5 million committed by Defra to rural housing enabling demonstrates the government is keen to scale-up these locally led schemes.

For more information on community led housing as an achievable housing option for residents, communities, and partners throughout the North Yorkshire and East Riding region, please visit the Community Led Homes, North Yorkshire and East Riding website.

Learn about community led housing, why it matters for your community and have your questions answered by the Community Led Homes, North Yorkshire and East Riding website Awareness Roadshows in June.