RSN Priority - An affordable place to live

Rural communities are only likely to thrive economically and socially if they are home to residents from a mix of age groups and backgrounds. This includes providing those brought up locally or working there with a chance to buy or rent a home they can afford.

  • Average house prices are £44,000 higher in rural areas than urban areas (2017). Housing is less affordable in predominantly rural areas, where lower quartile (the cheapest 25%) house prices are 8.3 times greater than lower quartile annual earnings (2016).
  • Options for those on low incomes seeking social rented housing are typically limited in small rural settlements. Only 8% of households in villages live in social housing. By contrast, 19% of households in urban settlements live in social housing (2011 Census).
  • The rural stock of social rented housing has shrunk under the Right to Buy policy, with sales quadrupling between 2012 and 2015 to reach 1% of the stock each year. Although the sale income is intended for reinvestment, only 1 replacement home was built in rural areas for every 8 sold during this period, and these replacements are rarely in the same settlement.
  • Second homes and holiday lets often add to rural housing market pressures, especially in popular tourist areas. They form a particularly large share of the housing stock in some local authority areas – Isles of Scilly (15%), North Norfolk (10%) and South Hams (9%).
  • It has previously been estimated there is a need to build 7,500 new affordable homes each year at England’s small rural settlements, a figure now considered an under-estimate.
  • Around 3,700 such homes were completed in 2015/16 and just over 4,000 during 2016/17.
  • Two thirds of rural local authorities say that affordable housing delivery decreased in their rural areas in 2017. This follows a change in planning policy, with developers no longer required to include any affordable homes on small market development sites.

Data sources are Halifax Building Society, ONS, Rural Housing Policy Review, MHCLG and Rural Services Network.

Rural communities are generally attractive places to live, but they need to be able to grow in ways which meet the needs of local people. There are significant challenges which should be addressed by a Rural Strategy. They are:

    • Bringing forward development sites at a price suited to affordable housing;
    • Making sure such homes are and remain genuinely affordable;
    • Planning new housing in ways which attract community support; and
    • Ensuring the funding model for affordable house building adds up.
Click here to find out more about our priority areas, challenges to address and what steps may make a difference for rural communities


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