Thursday, 12 July 2007 08:19

Watchdog welcomes housing pledge

Written by  Ruralcity Media
ImageThe Commission for Rural Communities has welcomed government plans to put affordable housing at the heart of the parliamentary programme.

Three million new homes will be built by 2020, the Prime Minister told MPs on Wednesday (11 July).

Gordon Brown said the government’s annual house-building target would be raised from 200,000 to 240,000 new homes in England from 2016.

A new Housing Bill would see the creation of a Housing and Regeneration Agency to support the delivery of housing supply.

In addition, a New HomeBuy scheme would enable social tenants, key workers and other first time buyers to buy share of a home.

The Commission for Rural Communities, which acts as the government’s rural watchdog, said it was vital the new policy met rural and urban needs.

Chairman Stuart Burgess said: “The lack of affordable housing is one of the most serious, if not the most serious, problem we face in rural England today.”

Six key actions were needed now to set affordable housing on the right track and demonstrate the government’s commitment to rural communities.

“There is no single answer to the rural housing crisis – it will require a package of measures at national, regional, local and community levels.”

Dr Burgess said the first action was to double the size of the Housing Corporation’s rural programme.

This would make a real contribution to the 11,000 new affordable houses needed in rural areas each year.

The second action was to encourage local authorities to facilitate rural housing by releasing more land or by reducing council tax discounts on second homes.

Thirdly, further incentives should be introduced so landowners were encouraged to bring forward more land for development.

The creation of a new homes agency would help to bring surplus public land into housing use, said Dr Burgess.

There were many opportunities to do this in rural areas. But at the same time ways were needed to encourage private landowners to release more land.  

Fourthly, the government should invest in new ways of providing affordable housing, through Community Land Trusts or by greater involvement of the private sector. 

Dr Burgess said the government should also require regional bodies to address rural housing needs when drawing up and implementing regional strategies.

Finally, he called the government to implement recommendations made last year by the Affordable Rural Housing Commission.

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