Monday, 23 December 2013 11:36

Expert voices rural housing concerns

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Expert voices rural housing concerns

Measures contained in the government's Autumn Statement will have a direct impact on rural social housing, an expert has warned.

Jo Lavis, of Rural Housing Solutions, highlighted a number of changes to planning and housing policy, unveiled by the government earlier in December.

Proposals to consult on a new 10 unit threshold for S106 affordable housing contributions could reduce delivery of rural affordable housing, she warned in a briefing note.

The government had provided no detail at this stage.

But sites in rural areas tend to be small and provided the only opportunity to secure affordable housing through allocated or windfall sites.

"Given that this delivery is often without or very low levels of grant they are an important source of affordable housing when public funding for affordable housing is limited.

"It could mean that delivery in smaller communities becomes reliant on rural exception sites."

While these had a valuable role in providing affordable housing, in the recent past they accounted for about 25% of homes built using HCA finance in settlements under 3,000 people.

Ms Lavis also highlighted a review of the New Homes Bonus planned for spring 2014 with possible proposal to withhold New Homes Bonus where decisions are made on appeal.

This could encourage more local authorities to put an up to date Local Plan in place, she said.

But it could have an unintended consequence when coupled with the presumption in favour in the national planning policy framework.

Meanwhile, proposals for financing new delivery were shifting strategic responsibility from local authorities to Local Enterprise Partnerships, said Ms Lavis.

Funding to unlock sites and increasing HRA borrowing limits would be "placed under the strategic influence of the LEP," she added.

"HRA changes could bring benefits in those rural areas that still own and manage stock. However, these may be limited for smaller rural communities."

At the same time, encouraging the Right to Buy, without provision to ensure replacement in smaller rural communities will further reduce their already limited supply of affordable housing.

The full briefing note can be downloaded here.

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