Reviving Rural England: A Comprehensive Plan to Address the Rural Housing Crisis

An influential manifesto was launched by English Rural yesterday, targeting key policymakers ahead of the upcoming General Election. Crafted by the leading experts in rural housing, "A Manifesto for Delivering Thriving Rural Communities Through Affordable Housing,” outlines a strategic plan to combat the severe lack of affordable homes in rural England. It offers a blueprint for bridging the significant gap in affordable housing availability between rural communities and urban areas, a critical issue for rural voters.

Highlighting the urgent need, the manifesto brings to light the acute shortage of affordable homes in the countryside, where only 9% of housing in villages is affordable, in stark contrast to 17% in urban settings. This inequality highlights the necessity for targeted government intervention and local initiatives to ensure that rural communities are revived and thrive.

Jo Lavis, Rural Affordable Housing Consultant at Rural Housing Solutions, stresses the importance of the manifesto's goals:

"Our villages are at a pivotal moment in their history, confronting a housing crisis that jeopardises the wellbeing and security of the nation. This manifesto is our ask on behalf of these communities, to aid them in securing a future where affordable housing is not merely about providing shelter but catalysing the growth of local economies, bolstering essential public services, and allowing rural residents to remain close to work, family, and support networks."

The manifesto advocates empowering rural communities through the development of small-scale affordable housing developments. These are seen as vital for enabling key local workers—such as teachers, care workers, and those essential to the rural economy—to live within the communities they support, thereby fostering economic growth and community resilience.

Innovative policy solutions are at the heart of the manifesto, which calls for adjustments in planning thresholds for affordable homes, better incentives for Rural Exception Sites, and the allocation of a dedicated portion of housing funds to rural projects.

Martin Collett, Chief Executive of English Rural, highlights the economic impact of the manifesto's proposals:

"The construction of just ten affordable rural homes can generate a £1.4 million boost to the local economy, support 26 jobs, and produce approximately £250,000 in net returns for the Treasury. Beyond the bricks and mortar, this initiative is about nurturing vibrant, resilient communities that contribute significantly to our national goals of green growth, nature recovery, and food security."

To address the decline in rural housing development, exemplified by an 11% decrease in the number of dwellings built in 2020/21, and the challenges of delivering these projects, the manifesto calls for protective measures for rural affordable homes and the long-term backing of a national network of Rural Housing Enablers, supported by a dedicated annual fund of £2.6 million.

Moreover, in recognising the growing concern of homelessness in rural England, the manifesto proposes a comprehensive strategy that includes adapted strategies for homelessness prevention, enhanced data collection, and the provision of support services tailored to the unique challenges faced by rural communities.

As rural England faces increasing challenges, this manifesto stands as a resolute call to action for policymakers, local authorities, and all stakeholders to collaborate in creating lasting solutions.

It’s time to act to ensure that rural communities across England can thrive as inclusive, vibrant places for generations to come.

The Rural Services Network has signed up to support this manifesto.

Chief Executive Kerry Booth said:

"We are delighted to put our voice to this shared manifesto for ‘Delivering thriving rural communities through affordable housing’. Having access to a home you can afford is so important for those that work and live in our rural communities and now is the time for politicians and decision makers to understand the challenges faced by those in rural areas, and respond with targeted policy solutions."

A-Manifesto-for-Delivering-Thriving-Rural-Communities-Through-Affordable-Housing.pdf (


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