Spotlight on Rural Housing - January 2022

A quarterly bulletin facilitated by your membership of the Rural Services Network and produced in partnership with the Rural Housing Alliance, highlighting a selection of current rural housing issues and opportunities

The hidden crisis of rural homelessness – research launched

Rural homelessness is an unseen crisis in the countryside, driven by limited access to services and an absence of affordable homes. The extent of the crisis is unclear as limited rural data is captured in official statistics. Trends show that overall homelessness has increased in the last decade and where interventions have helped in urban areas, their impact is less successful in rural communities. A rural housing task force has joined forces to shine a light on the crisis by commissioning a 12-month research collaboration between academics at Kent and Southampton Universities.

The rural task force includes leading national, rural charities and housing providers. Working collaboratively, the group have pooled resources to develop and fund the research, launched at the end of 2021, designed to secure evidence showing the extent of the rural housing crisis and what interventions will help tackle the problem. 

Working with the researchers, the group will develop and share a series of recommendations to inform government ministers and future policy making. Existing research has largely focused on urban homelessness due to its inherent visibility, yet it has neglected a growing crisis facing rural areas. This lack of exposure has meant it hasn’t received the attention and investment it deserves from policymakers.

The task force includes English Rural Housing Association, the Rural Services Network, CPRE – The Countryside Charity, the National Housing Federation, Homeless Link, Hastoe Housing Association, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), Citizen Housing, Trent and Dove Housing Association, and?The Rural Housing Alliance.

More information about the research can be found at this link.

First Homes report published

On 28 December 2021 Government requirements for the provision of First Homes as part of affordable housing contributions came into effect.

Apart from some areas where transitional arrangements will apply, the First Homes requirements will create a number of challenges for rural local authorities.

Research recently conducted by the Rural Service Network shows local authority members have several concerns including:

  • First homes not being affordable in their rural communities
  • Not being able to achieve a £250,000 price cap because market values are too high
  • A consequence of the proposals being a reduction in affordable rented housing and shared ownership provision

Recommendations proposed by the Rural Services Network in response to the research include:

  • Amendment of National Planning Policy Guidance
  • Allowing Homes England grant subsidy
  • Call for Government to fulfil its commitment on monitoring

You can read the full report via this link.

National Park affordable homes unveiled

Bakewell’s local war hero Colonel Leslie Wright was honoured in December at a housing development named after the great man.

Diginitaries gathered at the site on Shutts Lane to hear local pupils from Lady Manners School tell the story of the Colonel before a stone marking the opening was unveiled.

They were joined by members of Derbyshire Dales District Council and staff from Lindum Construction as well as other involved parties for the event.

Colonel Wright Close is made up of 30 homes built for Platform Housing Group in a project that took almost a decade to come to fruition. Meticulous planning ensured the homes were built to maintain the look of the area, using stone from the local Dale View quarry at Stanton Moor.

The land was originally bought from Lady Manners school, who used the funds to build their 3G sports pitch which is now enjoyed by the school and wider community.

Elizabeth Froude, Group Chief Executive of Platform Housing group, said, “We are very proud to deliver this affordable housing in the beautiful Peak National Park and in an area where house prices and affordability are particularly volatile.”

Also in attendance was Leader of DDDC, Councillor Garry Purdy, “This project has been 13 years in the making and in pushing for the scheme from the start we recognised an overwhelming need for these homes. All partners have worked extremely hard to secure high quality affordable homes for local people who have a link to Bakewell.

“The District Council carried out two housing need surveys in Bakewell that underlined the need for this development. We allocated £500,000 capital funding to help make these homes happen in the National Park and I would suggest that this scheme is arguably the single most important affordable housing scheme in the District Council’s housing programme in recent times.

More information about the scheme is available here.

Housing crisis needs action says Lords report

The House of Lords Built Environment Committee has published its report, ‘Meeting housing demand’, which concludes that the Government must address barriers to building much needed new homes. Too many people currently live in expensive, unsuitable, and poor-quality homes and housing supply needs to be increased to tackle the housing crisis now.

Key points highlighted in the report include:

  • The role of SMEs in the housebuilding industry has collapsed. SMEs should be supported by reducing planning risk, making more small sites available, and increasing access to finance.
  • The population is ageing and by 2050 one in four people in the UK will be over 65. The country needs more specialist and mainstream housing suitable for the elderly.
  • Uncertainty and delays to planning reforms have had a 'chilling effect' on housebuilding and created uncertainty for housebuilders and planners. More up-to-date local plans are needed, and these need to be simpler, clearer, and more transparent. Planning departments need more resource to avert an emerging crisis.
  • The Government’s own figures show that skills shortages accounted for 36% of all construction vacancies and 48% of all manufacturing and skilled trades vacancies. Skills shortages must be addressed, through broadening the base of talent, upskilling and reskilling, including for the green skills needed to address climate change.
  • Government must change its approach to spending on housing. Over time the money spent on housing benefit should be invested in increasing the social housing stock. Right to Buy schemes are not good value for money: increasing the housing supply would be a more effective use of funding.

The full report is available to read via this link.

A first, second and third for Northamptonshire Rural Housing Association

It’s never been busier for the Northamptonshire Rural Housing Association. They have a third phase of homes due to complete soon in the village of Nassington, a second phase of homes starting in Norton and two first time developments in Lilbourne and Little Addington.

These developments will deliver a total of 28 much-needed new homes in the county in 2022.

As well as providing eight affordable homes and two local market homes identified in the housing needs survey, the scheme in Norton is also a ground-breaking development for the region. It will be one of the first rural exception sites to also include two plots for self-building. The two four-bedroom plots will be prioritised for local people.

The planning and design of the scheme has been a true partnership between the Parish Council, the community and the association. The development has been shaped by what the community want, and they were empowered and involved throughout – and the Norton community will also benefit with the addition of a new playground, gifted by NRHA to the Parish Council.

All of the 28 homes in development by NRHA will be built to meet or exceed national space standards and will incorporate air source heat pumps (ASHPs).

The installation of ASHPs to heat homes in rural areas which are off gas mains, where previously the association has used expensive electric heaters, provides residents with a low carbon, energy efficient way of heating – and, importantly, they will help keep energy bills lower, which will be a great benefit with the current energy price increases and worsening fuel poverty crisis.

Unlocking Rural Housing – a Homes England learning event for local government officers

Local government officers can learn more about a range of housing issues via a set of knowledge-sharing sessions organised through Homes England’s ‘Local Government Capacity Centre.’

‘Unlocking rural housing’ will be the theme for a session being run on 2 February 2022. This will focus on the rural context for housing, including examples of good practice, blockages and opportunities. They’ll also explore the role?Homes England plays in unlocking housing developments in rural locations.

You can find out about this and other sessions in the current learning programme and book your place via this link.

The registration deadline for the rural housing session is 31 January.

Making land available for local needs housing – a landowner view from Kent

English Rural Housing Association interviewed Kent landowner, Henry Bryant, about why he wanted to give back to the community he knows and loves by selling a small patch of land to support the development of affordable rural homes:

Can you tell us a little more about yourself and your connection to the village?
I’m Henry Bryant.  I’ve been living here in the village all my life – which is nearly 73 years. My father lived in the village all his life, except when he was away at the war, and my grandparents lived in the village all their married life. So, we’ve got connections with the village that go back at least one hundred years – maybe a little bit more.

What made you decide to make your land available for local-needs housing?
I should think about thirty years ago I was asked to make this piece of land available for affordable rural housing, but I must admit I wasn’t quite as philanthropic in my younger days. More recently, the Parish Council carried out a survey which showed that there was a desperate need for affordable housing in the village of Hernhill. Of the other sites that they picked out, none of the landowners were prepared to sell the land. I was the only one, which is fine by me having lived in the village all my life. I thought here’s a chance to put a little bit back into the community that I’ve lived in for so long.

How can farmers and landowners work effectively with rural housing associations to get a small number of affordable homes built?
The nub of the problem is the Parish Councils have got to decide whether they need affordable housing in their parishes. Then they have got to communicate with the parishioners and tell them what they’re planning to do, why they’re planning to do it, and how they’re planning to do it before it all becomes ‘semi-official’, with parishioners suddenly finding out about it at a consultation, and then suddenly the whole thing goes in the wrong direction. It’s all down to communication, as so often is the case in life.

What has been your experience of working with English Rural?
I have found English Rural straightforward and easy to work with. I genuinely believe that they’ve done their utmost to work with the local community and address their needs and wants. I’m looking forward to seeing these homes built and seeing local people living in them and enjoying them.

You can read the full interview via this link.

‘Stepping Stone’ apartments for people with learning difficulties in South Devon

A small independent housing association in South West England ended 2021 on a high, with completion and occupation of 11 new ‘Stepping Stone’ apartments for people with learning difficulties at Dartington in South Devon.

Through their new purpose-built apartments South Devon Rural Housing Association (SDR) are giving some residents their very first taste of independent living.

The Elmhirst Court apartments on land owned and managed by SDR were built in collaboration with Devon County Council and South Hams District Council, while the project was part-funded with £400,000 from Homes England.

Councillor Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council and Lead Member for Housing, said: “I’m so proud we’ve been a part of this much needed project. Together we’ve made sure more local people can access a safe and comfortable home that truly meets their individual needs without having to move far from friends and family”.

SDR Chief Executive Christine Candlish added: “This latest development symbolises the broad spectrum of ages and needs that South Devon Rural aims to cater for going forward.

“I’m delighted that all 11 apartments are now occupied. It’s the human element that makes any building come alive and Elmhirst Court is now starting to fulfil its potential”.

The Case Study has been produced which shows how one of the first people to sign up for the new apartments is already finding the apartments offer life-changing opportunities and why Christine Candlish, SDR’s Chief Executive, says it exemplifies “why we come to work every day.” You can read the case study via this link.

Air source heat pumps and electric vehicle charging points for new Somerset scheme

Willowtree Housing Partnership has completed a scheme at Stoke St Gregory, a rural village to the north east of Taunton. The development of 9 affordable homes, comprising 7 social rent and 2 shared ownership, includes one bungalow and a combination of terraced and semi-detached properties.

This exception site lies on the edge of Stoke St Gregory on the Somerset Levels and also includes 25 open market homes.  The homes constructed by Otter Construct have been built to a very high standard, incorporating renewable elements including Air Source Heat Pumps and EV charging points. Works commenced on site in early 2020 and Otter Construct continued throughout the pandemic, tackling the challenges encountered through coronavirus to complete the properties by the end of 2021.

WTHP were delighted to take handover of the properties in November/December to enable tenants to be in their new homes for Christmas, giving them a new start to 2022.

As a section 106 site, the scheme was delivered with no public subsidy.

A day in the life of a Rural Housing Enabler

English Rural Housing Association asked Louise Williams to describe her typical working day in a guest post on their website.

Rural Housing Enablers (RHEs) work to secure affordable housing for local people in rural communities. This provides life changing opportunities for local families, and at the same time, helps to sustain rural communities by supporting local services such as schools, shops and pubs. RHEs were ‘invented’ over twenty years ago and have a strong track record of delivering community-led rural affordable housing. Most operate within a specific county, but you can find RHEs in many parts of the country.

In her guest post, Louise Williams, a Rural and Community Led Housing Enabler working with Community Action Surrey, describes a typical ‘day in the life’ of a RHE.

Louise’s day included a site visit to a new scheme in Brockham, near Dorking. Louise says: “This is a wonderful development of 12 homes which will be available to rent at social rent levels and five self-build plots. They are being built by a small local housing charity, The Poland Trust, on a rural exception site where a local landowner gifted the land. It’s great to see the homes being built after almost 10 years of trying to find a suitable site.”

You can read Louise’s full post here.

Parish Council Guide to rural affordable housing just a click away

The new Parish Councillors’ Guide to Rural Affordable Housing is packed full of useful information about all stages of the affordable housing process, the organisations involved, funding and other matters. Produced by the Rural Housing Alliance, the Guide aims to demystify the process of getting rural affordable homes provided in rural communities and is available for free via this link.

Housing Insights from RSN

RSN Member Insights is the place to discover the statistics that define communities within membership of the Rural Services Network (RSN).  It is regularly updated with new analyses, and these will be highlighted in the 'What's New' section of the RSN's Weekly Rural Bulletin.  The Rural Bulletin also provides a selection of the most rurally topical news items, so do subscribe and encourage your colleagues to subscribe to what is an invaluable weekly periodical.

Updated Housing Insights and other housing related analyses can be accessed via this link.

Recently added is an analysis showing the total additional affordable dwelling completions provided by local authority areas.  The analysis looks at the provision of additional affordable housing over the years 2009/10 to 2020/21 for any member authority of RSN.

To make a suggestion of data that would benefit you by being included in the Member Insights section, please email Dan Worth, RSN’s Research and Performance Analyst, at

Ageing in place: how can we ensure rural residents have choice, control and support to lead healthy, independent lives?

By 2040, over 40% of the UK population will be aged 50 years and over. Yet we are not ageing evenly – with one in three Local Authorities in rural and coastal Districts already having populations fitting this profile. On the one hand, ageing is a life-long process and older people are key contributors to our workplaces, communities and society at large. On the other hand, an ageing population has significant implications for public services; with older people (in general) more likely to access services such as health, care, and pensions than their younger counterparts. COVID-19 has seen urgent problems in social care become more acute. As part of pandemic recovery and future planning, Government is now paying increasing attention to improving services for older people. This includes the publication of the ‘People at the Heart of Care’ White Paper. What does ageing mean for rural communities – and what can be done to fix social care in rural places? Jessica Sellick investigated this issue for the Rural Services Network recently, You can read her analysis here.

Keep Calm and Join Up!

RSN exists to enable the issues facing the rural areas of England to be identified, information and good practice to be shared and government to be challenged to address the needs and build on the opportunities which abound in rural areas.

If you know a rural housing organisation that would benefit from membership, please ask them to consider joining us. RSN is a solely rural focussed organisation with an electronic distribution network in excess of 25,000 individuals.  We reach right across all the rural areas of England and provide a sustained and respected voice for rural areas at national level.  Anyone who wants to talk to us about our role and services in relation to rural housing should contact Andy Dean to find out more.

If you are a small housing organisation operating in rural England, you can have access to all the services of RSN for an annual subscription from just £255 plus VAT.  RSN exists to share information, promote good practice and represent the voice of rural England at a national level. Check out the website for more information or contact Andy Dean to join up.


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