Monday, 05 October 2015 13:52

Rural warning against Right-to-Buy

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Rural warning against Right-to-Buy

COUNTRYSIDE communities will be damaged by 'voluntary' Right-to-Buy proposals, rural leaders have warned.

Most housing associations have voted for a deal between the government and National Housing Federation - but rural organisations argue that it does not provide sufficient protection for rural communities.

The agreement would only allow housing associations to exercise discretion in a few defined rural areas about whether or not to offer the Right-to-Buy to their tenants.

Rural organisations are calling for a full exemption from the Right-to-Buy scheme for rural areas, rather than only a discretion not to sell homes.

As well as the Rural Services Network, those organisations include the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Hastoe Housing Group, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and the National Association of Local Councils.

Other organisations include Action with Communities in Rural England, Lincolnshire Rural Housing Association, Exmoor National Park and the National Parks Association.

They are concerned that rural affordable housing lost to the open market is unlikely to be replaced and that a 'portable discount' alternative will not help rural areas.

The organisations have warned that landowners will be reluctant to offer land for social housing if there are no guarantees it will remain affordable and not be sold on within a few years.
As the new 'one for one' replacement homes can be anywhere in the country, the fear is that these are likely to be built in urban areas where development is quicker and cheaper.

The 'portable discount' alternative to Right to Buy can only be used to buy another housing association's property so this will only exacerbate the dwindling supply of affordable housing in rural communities.

These proposals risk reducing the low levels of affordable housing in rural areas (8% compared with 20% in towns and cities) even further.

Rural areas also have lower average wages and higher house prices than urban areas – and the gap between average rural wages and house prices is growing.

Earlier this year, RSN chief executive Graham Biggs warned that extending the Right-to-Buy could lead to the complete lack of affordable housing in some communities.

This would especially be the case where tenants bought existing homes and no further properties were delivered.

Mr Biggs said: "Extending the Right-to-Buy will remove the opportunity for individuals and families on low incomes to live in rural areas - undermining the social and economic viability of our rural communities."

Without a comprehensive and well defined rural exemption, other organisations agree that the government's proposed measure will make it harder to sustain mixed rural communities and local services such as shops and pubs.

CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said: "The backbone of village life is the mix of people living there. Does the Government want to foster living, socially mixed rural communities? This is the test."

The government must introduce a full exemption for rural communities from the right to buy - otherwise it risked making rural living the exclusive preserve of those who can afford expensive market housing."

CLA chief surveyor Andrew Shirley said extending Right-to-Buy to Housing Association tenants in rural areas would  reduce the already small number of affordable properties already available while deterring more land coming forward for new schemes.

"With the Right to Buy there is little incentive for landowners to keep doing so, if these properties will only be reverted to open market housing under the Right to Buy."

Hastoe chief executive Sue Chalkley said the housing association had been working for years with many rural communities and landowners about new affordable housing.

"They fear this lack of a rural exemption will lead to a loss of their homes to the private sector in a very short period of time and are writing to their MPs.

"It is important that the rural voice continues to be heard and our concerns addressed."

People in this conversation

  • Guest (Derrick Dyas)

    Report

    The Government's policy re RTB does not reflect common sense and therefore it will not recognise the need to maintain balanced rural communities. They fail to recognise this need when it is under their noses, as will the price of housing in London and the destruction of the housing economy there, so why would they see the potential damage in rural areas.

    We need to shout from the rooftops and engage with Conservative MPs and Councillors who represent rural areas.

    from Dorridge, Solihull, West Midlands, UK

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