The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

Empowering Rural Councils to Address Housing Crisis and Protect Communities

The housing crisis in rural England has sparked debate over the impact of second homes and holiday lets on local communities. A recent BBC report sheds light on the growing challenges faced by towns and villages across East Anglia, particularly in North Norfolk, King's Lynn & West Norfolk, East Suffolk, Babergh, and Mid Suffolk.

In North Norfolk alone, nearly 6,000 homes are second homes or long-term empty properties, while over 2,500 households wait for social housing. The average house price in the area is £290,000, far outstripping the average weekly earnings of £587. For many locals, owning a home seems increasingly out of reach, leading to a competitive rental market with limited availability.

To address these concerns, North Norfolk District Council is introducing a 100% council tax premium on second homes from April 2025, aiming to generate funds to support affordable housing initiatives. While this measure may provide a financial boost, it is crucial that these additional funds are specifically earmarked for creating and maintaining affordable housing for local populations. Lynne Burdon of Homes for Wells emphasised the necessity of using the revenue generated from these taxes to support local communities. Without such measures, there is a risk that these areas could lose their vitality, becoming "dead towns" devoid of the essential workforce needed to sustain them.

The report also highlights differing opinions on the impact of second homes and holiday lets on local economies. Holiday home businesses have warned that taxing second homes could damage the tourism industry, while others argue that restricting second homeownership is essential to sustain local communities.

The Rural Services Network has long advocated for the protection of rural tenants by empowering local authorities to effectively register and manage both short and long-term rental markets.  There is a pressing need to address the oversupply of holiday lets, ensuring that rural residents have access to the rental housing market and can find homes to live in within their own communities. Through our ongoing 'Winning the Rural Vote' campaign, we continue to push all political parties for policy changes that support the provision of affordable housing in rural areas, recognising the critical need for rural communities to live and thrive sustainably.

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