Spotlight on Rural Housing - July 2021

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

Rural Housing Week 2021 is here!

Rural Housing Week is a week-long campaign that takes place every year to showcase the fantastic work that housing associations do in rural communities. This year, Rural Housing Week takes place from 5-9 July.

The theme this year is committed to rural communities – highlighting rural housing associations' dedication to providing affordable homes that people love and that keep vital rural services alive. Now, more than ever, rural housing associations are committed to their communities and to working together to help them thrive. Rural Housing Week is the perfect time to celebrate that.

Rural Housing Alliance members and the National Housing Federation have lots planned for the week both nationally and around the country. Watch out for the hashtag #RuralHousingWeek on social media!

New Parish Council Guide to rural affordable housing published

The new Parish Councillors’ Guide to Rural Affordable Housing has been published to coincide with Rural Housing Week 2021. Packed full of useful information about all stages of the affordable housing process, the organisations involved, funding and other matters, the Guide aims to demystify the process of getting rural affordable homes provided in rural communities. You can access the Guide via this link.

What can be done to plug the rural housing gap?

Despite numerous consultations, announcements, funding packages, targets and interventions by successive Governments the housing gap remains – with the number of households [demand] outstripping the houses built [supply]. While rural places are often viewed as idyllic places to live, work and enjoy they face particular issues around affordability, accessibility and contain more second / holiday homes than their urban counterparts. How many homes do we need, and what more can be done to provide the rural homes people require? In the lead up to Rural Housing Week, Jessica Sellick investigated this issue on behalf of RSN asking the following core questions:

  • How many homes do we need, and are we delivering enough?
  • Are we delivering homes in the right places, to a high standard, and at an affordable cost?
  • What impact has COVID-19 had – and how can we build back better and level-up communities?
  • What more can be done to deliver the homes we need in the countryside?

Among Jessica’s conclusions were the following: “What emerges from all of this work is the need for a clear plan or strategy for rural areas that not only considers housing in a post-COVID, longer-term perspective, but also seeks to support those in the greatest need and links housing explicitly to other policy areas such as work, health and education. It needs to move away from crisis intervention to prevention – for example, we tend to respond to immediate needs particularly around ill health, food banks, homelessness, rather than thinking more holistically about providing affordable housing in rural places.”

You can read Jessica’s full paper here.

Rural Housing Alliance renews Rural Pledge

The Rural Housing Alliance, which works in partnership with the Rural Services Network and National Housing Federation, is a group of housing associations that develop and manage affordable homes in rural areas across England. As part of Rural Housing Week 2021, the Alliance has renewed it’s pledge to rural communities. The pledge reads as follows:

“Our pledge is to ensure there are high quality, low carbon affordable homes with great services in rural areas.

We will:

  • Work closely with local communities and Parish Councils to find the best solution to meet identified housing needs
  • Ensure that homes are occupied by people who have a local connection or contribute to the sustainability and inclusivity of the village and rural area
  • Ensure that affordable homes always remain affordable
  • Build sensitively designed, high quality homes which contribute to the beauty of an area
  • Build to high environmental standards which help residents and communities reduce their carbon impact and be more sustainable and resilient
  • Provide locally sensitive, high quality services to our residents and their communities
  • Always listen and respond positively to our customers and the local community

Delivering our Pledge will create and maintain positive local rural communities as real Places to live and thrive in.”

You can read more about the Rural Housing Alliance here.

What do successful rural affordable homes look like?

Lots of case studies from around the country are featured in the Parish Councillors’ Guide to Rural Affordable Housing demonstrating what successful rural affordable housing is all about.

From Dorset to North Yorkshire, the Peak District to Cambridgeshire, you can get a taster of some of these case studies via this link.

Raising the bar on energy-efficient affordable rural homes

Pioneering rural Housing Association, Hastoe has launched the Hastoe New-Build Standard, setting out the minimum requirements for all their new homes.

“We have always delivered beautiful, affordable homes that go beyond current building regulations” explains Development Director Ulrike Maccariello. “Our New Build Standard consolidates our approach and sets us on the road to meeting the Government’s carbon emission targets for 2050 as well as the Future Building Standard in 2025.”

As a rural housing specialist, Hastoe has a strong track record in being invited by rural communities to develop bespoke, small-scale, affordable developments, sensitive to specific local housing needs. Hastoe tailors each scheme to fit within its unique, local setting and circumstances. And for that reason no Hastoe development is ever the same.

“First and foremost though, it’s the people who will live in our homes who are at the heart of the Standard” explains Hastoe Board member Chris Parsons. “We want them to be able to afford to live comfortably and without facing increasing fuel bills. To ensure our properties are really energy-efficient, we focus on a fabric-first approach that prioritises high levels of insulation alongside high-performing windows and doors in our homes.”

Tenants Nicola and Joe, who live in a Hastoe Passivhaus scheme in Burwash, East Sussex say they love their one-bedroom flat. “It’s incredibly cheap to run” says Nicola. “It’s also spacious and bright with its own garden. We’re really proud of where we live. The building fits in beautifully with this lovely village”.

The New-Build Standard has itself been informed by the Passivhaus approach – a highly energy-efficient building technique that uses ‘passive’ heat sources such as the sun, human occupants and household appliances to cut energy bills by up to 90% per year.

You can read more and access the Hastoe New Build Standard via this link.

Rural affordable housing playlist

English Rural Housing Association have pulled together a YouTube playlist of short films reflecting different aspects of the development process and the difference rural affordable homes make. These cover:

  • How do rural Housing Associations work with Parish Councils?
  • Working with rural stakeholders to get affordable rural homes built.
  • How local authority and rural housing enablers work with Parish Councils
  • A Parish Councillor’s reflections on the scheme in her Parish
  • A local authority Councillor’s perspective on affordable rural housing
  • Rural homelessness – a resident’s story.
  • How community-led housing advisers work with Parish Councils

There are also a few short films on specific schemes all of which are really worth a look.

You can view all the films here.

Rural Housing – why is it so difficult to support thriving villages?

Affordable housing breathes new life into rural communities, sustaining shops, village schools and local amenities.

Affordable housing provider Housing Plus Group has produced a new podcast series, ‘In House,’ to explore this issue further. In the first episode, Kerry Bolister and Gerry McFall from Housing Plus Group, Sarah Finnegan from the National Housing Federation and local resident, Lynne, who has campaigned  in support of affordable housing development in her village, make very clear the importance of providing new homes to help rural communities to thrive. Lynne also talks about how affordable rural housing could change lives in her own family.

You can listen to the podcasts on spotify here or via other podcasting platforms via this link.

Revitalising Rural: realising the vision

The Rural Services Network’s ‘Revitalising Rural: Realising the Vision’ campaign aims to set out a number of key asks of Government to help ensure rural areas are not left behind in levelling up England.  Public services in rural areas should be fairly funded to ensure that additional costs of delivering rural services are recognised and adequately funded.

The RSN is urging the Government to give rural communities the consideration they deserve in post-pandemic policy making. With equitable funding and support, people living outside major cities in England will be empowered to fully contribute to the country’s socio-economic recovery in the months and years to come.

All Government policies should be developed and implemented in ways which take into account the particular needs of rural communities and are designed to suit rural circumstances with local delivery wherever possible.

The campaign sets out key asks in a number of policy areas including rural transport, affordable housing, digital connectivity and access to health services. You can view all of the campaign documents and policy asks at this link.

The Rural Affordable Housing Chapter highlights key issues and challenges in the delivery of and access to affordable housing in rural areas, and sets out a number of asks focusing on:

  • Affordable housing quotas
  • Grant funding for rural areas
  • Community-led housing
  • Exception sites
  • Sale of affordable homes

The Rural Affordable Housing chapter can be viewed 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.

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

Government consults on Warm Home Discount

The Warm Home Discount scheme obliges participating energy suppliers to provide rebates to their customers, to reduce energy bills for low-income and vulnerable households and tackle fuel poverty.

The current government consultation proposes to expand and reform the scheme in England and Wales until 2026, in line with the commitments announced in the Energy White Paper in 2020. The objective of the reforms is “to improve the fuel poverty targeting rate of the scheme and ensure more fuel poor households can receive rebates on their energy bills automatically, through the use of data matching.”

Government would particularly welcome responses from energy suppliers and charities and other organisations focusing on fuel poverty and vulnerable people.

This consultation closes on 22 August 2021. Full details can be accessed via this link.

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.

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.

To find out more about membership for rural housing associations and to join up, contact Andy Dean


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