Spotlight on Rural Housing - October 2019

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 2019 huge success

Rural Housing Week ran from 1 to 5 July this year, generating a huge amount of activity and putting rural housing firmly in the spotlight.

The National Housing Federation has put together a highlights page to their website telling the story of the week through key events, published blogs and some of the case studies published by housing associations.

The latest rural supply figures were released at the start of Rural Housing Week which showed an increase in the number of new homes built compared to last year, including more than 1,000 social rent homes. This was great and timely news in demonstrating the hard work, and ambition, of rural housing associations.

The 5-star plan for rural housing was relaunched at the national Rural Housing Conference. Two years on from the original launch of the plan, it’s clear that it is having an impact, with the target of increasing rural delivery by 6% being met last year. This relaunch aims to build on this and seek the full support of the rural housing sector. You can read the 5-star plan for rural housing here.

Warwickshire scheme unveiled

Warwickshire Rural Housing Association (WRHA) Chairman, Derrick Dyas, got the surprise of his life when he discovered the brand new development in Stretton on Fosse has been named in his honour.

With his wife, colleagues, local councillors and housing leaders at his side at the official opening event, Derrick unveiled the sign only to find, to his astonishment, that the landmark development is called Dyas Green.

Derrick is retiring during WRHA’s 30th anniversary, having been one of the founding members back in 1989, before becoming Chairman in 2008.  He has worked his whole life in social housing, helping to transform the lives of many Warwickshire residents.

Thirty years ago, in 1989, WRHA developed its very first scheme of 10 affordable homes at Harolds Orchard in Stretton on Fosse, specifically for local people.  In 2009, the housing association returned to build an additional four properties for phase 2 during its 20th anniversary year. Now WRHA has come full circle to complete the third and final phase of five affordable homes for its 30th anniversary.

Derrick was joined at the event by former Board members and representatives from Homes England, Warwickshire Rural Community Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Long Compton Parish Council, with many paying tributes to the impact he has had on local communities.

WRHA Company Secretary, Richard Mugglestone, said: “We are so proud to be celebrating 30 years of providing affordable housing where it is most needed in Warwickshire’s villages. Returning to Stretton on Fosse where we first began back in 1989 makes our anniversary even more special and we are honoured to name phase 3 after our long-standing Chairman, Derrick Dyas.”

Chairman, Derrick Dyas, added: “I felt so moved when I saw the sign.  I had no idea!  I’ve never had anything named after me, so this is very special.  It made me think of my 30 years with Warwickshire Rural and this really caps it off.”

You can read more via this link.

Ashford sheltered scheme opens doors

A major landmark in Ashford Borough Council’s multi-million pound modernisation plan for its sheltered housing schemes has seen the re-opening of the £7.5m Danemore scheme in Tenterden.

Within months of opening, the scheme has already been nominated for awards – in the Excellence in Development category at the Kent Housing Group Awards and in the Best Older People’s Housing Development (up to 50 homes) category the Inside Housing Awards.

Located a short walk from the town centre, the new-look Danemore provides 34 homes for affordable rent for older people, together with four chalet bungalows which will be sold on the open market. Modelled on the multi-award-winning Farrow Court scheme developed by the council in south Ashford, Danemore has 25 one bedroom and nine two-bedroom apartments, built to a high quality that are care ready.

“The first tenants have moved in and I’m delighted to say that we are already seeing a really happy community atmosphere being generated there,” said Sharon Williams, Head of Housing at Ashford Borough Council.

The first people to call Danemore home are enjoying a range of high-quality facilities. There is a large cosy communal lounge and kitchen, laundry room, guest suite, buggy store and cycle racks. A treatment room provides hair dressing, nail bar and podiatrist and chiropodist massage chair plus foot spa.

A real community feel is fostered by the inclusion of shared facilities, including ‘hubs’ or sub lounges in addition to a main communal lounge located on the ground floor. The scheme has been designed to maximise natural daylight in each home and through the many shared spaces.

Just as much care and thought has gone into designing exterior spaces at Danemore. The traditionally built carbon friendly flats incorporate a large area of green roofing, with each flat benefiting from a winter garden balcony protected by a glazed screen. There are architect landscaped designed garden spaces with potting shed and raised beds for residents to use.

Security and connectivity are high priorities – the scheme has CCTV monitored both on and off site, a video door entry system, a sprinkler system fitted in every apartment, the council-controlled Lifeline system installed and free WiFi in the lounge, with Freeview and Freesat also available in each of the 34 apartments. A manager is available to ensure the smooth running of the scheme, while ABC’s own Handyman service is able to help with maintenance work. Danemore is designed to be dementia-friendly throughout, taking into account colour schemes, light, corridor

Danemore cost around £7.5m, paid for through the council’s housing revenue account and grant funding from Homes England.

Exception site scheme in national park completed

Completion of six new affordable homes have been celebrated in South Tawton, within Dartmoor National Park. This rural exception site scheme has been developed by specialist rural housing developer, Hastoe Housing Association, in close partnership with South Tawton Parish Council, West Devon Borough Council, Dartmoor National Park Authority and residents in the community. The development brings the number of affordable homes in the scheme to 10; four other affordable homes were completed by Hastoe in 1995.

Speaking at the event, Hastoe Board Member Martin Huckerby said: “This development is really only possible thanks to the generous donation of land by local farmer Lawrence Jones. As with the other four homes, these six homes have been reserved solely for local people and must always be kept affordable. Working alongside the local parish council and the local community, we make sure our houses are designed and built in keeping with the local environment and meet real local housing need. Our homes often have a big impact on local village life too, helping to keep families together and local amenities open.”

The new development consists of one 1-bedroom house, two 2-bedroom houses and three 3-bedroom houses for affordable rent. All 10 of the homes are now fully occupied.

At the celebration opening, resident Sally Burt said: “I’m loving my new home. We used to rent a privately-owned cob cottage but it was very damp and it also had only 2 bedrooms so my 2 children, a boy and a girl, had to share. Having 3 bedrooms means they now have their own space and my youngest, Ruben who’s five, is sleeping much better. He’d never settle because he was afraid of the bunk bed above him. Also, previously we lived on a road that was a short cut for drivers and it wasn’t safe. Now, living in a cul-de-sac, means when they come back from school they can play outside with the other kids. It feels like a real home and we’re part of our own little community.”

Mel Stride, MP for Central Devon, marked the official completion of the housing scheme by cutting a ribbon and planting a tree, and emphasised the importance of building homes in rural areas: “Delivering homes within Dartmoor National Park is not easy given the planning restrictions which are rightly in place to protect our beautiful part of Devon. But this development is proof that well-thought-out, eco-friendly homes built in the right places can really add to the park and help more local families be able to afford a place of their own.” 

Cllr Philip Sanders, Chair of the Development Management Committee for the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), said: “It’s only through the close co-operation and collaboration of everyone involved that has made this possible. First of all by sitting down and talking about what we want to achieve, then by working together to make sure it happened. Cannonmede Cottages is a great example of partnership working at its best.”

Affordable housing for sale Locality webinar recording available

Locality recently delivered a very useful webinar on how to use a neighbourhood plan to bring forward affordable housing for sale. Interested? If so, click on this link to watch the webinar recording.

If you want to find out more information about what support Locality offer groups preparing neighbourhood plans, then please visit the neighbourhood planning website via this link. The website also outlines the support Locality offer to groups seeking to bring forward affordable housing for sale through their plans.

Improving living conditions for private renters in rural areas

Joanna Oakes of Daventry District Council writes:

Rural house prices have risen over 82% in 10 years. This has led to the inability of many people living in rural communities to access home ownership and it has contributed to massive growth of the Private Rental Sector.  2018 figures suggest there are 2.5million landlords and 11 million people living in rented accommodation.           

In the April edition of Spotlight on Rural Housing, Joanna Oakes, Community Projects Officer for Housing at Daventry District Council highlighted a raft of legislation that has been introduced to help tackle rogue landlords and in turn, drive up living conditions for tenants.  Six months on from this, and the Government legislation has started to bear fruit.

Under the expanded scope of the 2016 House and Planning Act tenants were able to bring a successful case and claim for a Rent Repayment Order.  Students in Leeds successfully claimed £15,000 of rent back after it was revealed their landlord was, infact, unlawfully renting the property to them.  The landlord hadn’t acquired a House in Multiple Occupation Licence (HMO).

Last month, Telford and Wrekin Council became the first Local Authority to enforce a banning order and rent repayment order on a rogue landlord who was found not to be a fit and proper person to hold a licence for a HMO.  Despite this, he continued to run the house and advertise rooms.  A banning order prevents a landlord from holding a HMO licence, renting out accommodation, engaging in letting agency work or engaging in property management work.

As a result of the banning order, he has also been added to Central Government’s new national Rogue Landlord and Property Agents Database which Local Authorities have as another tool at their disposal to tackle landlords who continue to wilfully or ignorantly fail to meet their statutory obligations.

If you are a landlord or a tenant and you are unsure of your rights and legal obligations, Joanna suggest that you check with your Local Authority, Shelter or Citizen’s Advice Bureau. 

An affordable housing crisis in the Surrey Hills

A new report commissioned by English Rural Housing Association and supported by Strutt & Parker reveals that properties within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are, on average:

  • 34% more expensive than those in surrounding areas, and
  • Almost 23 times the average household income

The report entitled ‘The Surrey Hills: A Case for Affordable Rural Housing’ was launched at English Rural’s Affordable Housing Conference hosted on the Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey at the end of September. The research focuses on the 42 rural parishes that lie wholly or partly within the Surrey Hills AONB – the most expensive of the 46 English AONBs in which to buy a home.

The research found that only 14% of properties in the Surrey Hills are in the lowest three council tax bands and around 660 (2%) affordable homes need to be built to meet current local housing need across the 42 rural parishes. Building to meet just half the need would equate to 330 homes – 8 in each parish. The report also highlights that the consequences of not meeting the housing needs of residents are significant for individuals, for the future viability of communities, and for the local economy.

Like many rural areas, villages in the Surrey Hills are affected by higher than average property prices and lower than average wages, making it impossible for many local households to afford to rent or buy a home in their local community, alongside family and support networks. As an AONB, the tighter planning rules mean new supply is limited and this has intensified the affordable housing crisis. Meanwhile, the nature of the housing stock, which leans towards large, detached properties, drives demand among up-sizers and families relocating from London attracted by the space, excellent schooling and attractive countryside. The research also highlights the lack of opportunity for older households to move to better designed and smaller accommodation.

Essential local services in rural areas, such as schools, shops and pubs, are increasingly at risk of closing where villages have suffered from lack of investment in new affordable homes. Without access to an affordable home it is difficult for local households, particularly families, to remain. This is also shown to put the long-term sustainability of the local economy at risk.

English Rural has a strong track-record of working in partnership with communities in rural areas to deliver homes that meet local housing need. Parish level housing surveys make sure community needs and priorities are understood. The community is involved throughout the design process so that the homes reflect the aspirations and sensitivities of local people, as well as the surrounding landscape. Building affordable rural homes enables local households to remain within the communities they have often been in for generations, and this in turn supports rural services by allowing them to remain open.

Commenting on the report, English Rural’s Chief Executive, Martin Collett said:

“The consequences of a lack of affordable homes in the Surrey Hills reach far beyond just the housing market – impacting on individual households, particularly young families. The viability of rural communities, and the sustainability of local business also depends on communities housing a range of age groups and income earners. For rural communities to thrive, we believe local people deserve to live in high-quality, well-managed homes that are comfortable, safe, and affordable. This report shows that the Surrey Hills has a well-evidenced need for affordable homes and that we need to work together with Local Authorities, Parish Councils and importantly the local community to build a legacy for the future of villages that provide opportunities beyond housing.”

Georgia Kirby-Watt, Associate Director or Land Management at Strutt & Parker said:

“The Surrey Hills faces unique challenges of affordability as locals face competition from both London commuters and second homeowners seeking a piece of this picturesque landscape for their own. AONB house prices carry some of the highest premiums in relation to average earnings nationwide, with local people being forced out as a result. Rural attitudes towards affordable housing are now overwhelmingly positive as communities recognise that it provides an important role in preserving the character and vibrancy of commuter belt, dormitory towns. The time for collaboration with the community is now.”

Roots of the rural housing crisis

During Rural Housing Week, Rose Grayston of Shelter published a blog offering some stark views on the rural housing crisis.

In the blog, Rose asks why we hear so little about rural housing in the national conversation about the housing crisis?

“To take a generous view, it may be because the impact of the lack of affordable, decent homes in urban areas is more visible. Anyone who has walked down a city centre street lately is well aware that too many people have nowhere to call home. By contrast, homelessness in rural areas is far more likely to be hidden from general view as people seek shelter in outhouses, barns, tents and cars. Perhaps it is also relevant that many of the people who shape the national conversation about the housing crisis – journalists, politicians, policy wonks at national housing charities – also live in cities and may have limited contact with the less rosy side of country life.

Whatever the reason, the end result has been an escalating problem in rural areas that has been little noted outside them. Rural Housing Week has an important role in breaking this silence, lifting the lid on a hidden crisis and celebrating the councils and housing associations getting rural social homes built against the odds.

“But while it is certainly true that cities get too much attention and a disproportionate share of resources compared to rural areas, these factors are not at the root of the housing crisis in the countryside, and they hold out little prospect of fixing it. The fundamental drivers of the dearth of affordable, decent homes are strikingly similar across rural, suburban and urban areas:

  • a lack of support for and public investment in genuinely affordable housing
  • affordable housing providers lack access to affordable land because the land market is broken
  • decisions about what is built, where and for whom are pre-determined by the broken land market, because developers assume they will build the most profitable kinds of homes to win land bids
  • weak, excessively flexible planning rules have reduced affordable housing delivery through Section 106

“These are not problems which can be resolved by tweaking the existing system in ways that get a slightly bigger piece of the pie for rural areas. For example, until the prime minister announced new money in her party conference speech last year, there was £0 of public grant available to build truly affordable social rent homes anywhere. A bigger slice of £0 is still £0.

“Tackling the fundamental problems which drive the housing crisis everywhere is no mean feat, and the solutions will need to be tailored for local circumstances. There is no doubt that particular policies (like the removal of affordable housing from schemes of fewer than ten homes) are tone deaf to the needs and nature of rural development. But the big changes in legislation and financial and political commitment needed to build our way out of this hole are common across the country and require close collaboration across traditional groups.

“That is exactly what we intend to do in Shelter’s upcoming work to map out the path to build a bigger, better social housing offer.”

You can read the full article via this link.

Good neighbour scheme operating in Daventry District

Daventry District Council is working with Northamptonshire ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) to develop Good Neighbour Schemes across the district.  The aim is to support local residents to maintain a good quality of life; remain independent in their own homes if they wish to; and reduce their reliance on statutory health and care support systems.

Daventry District Council held an Ageing Well Consultation in January 2016 to coincide with The Ageing Well in Daventry District 2017-21 Strategy review.  This reflected the everchanging needs and aspirations of older people living within Daventry District, whilst taking into account the austere economic times faced by all local authorities and local communities.

The strategy was written against a backdrop of Daventry District’s ageing population.  In 2016, 18.7% of the population was age 65 years or older.  This is expected to increase to nearly 25% by 2026.  Over the next 10 years there will be three and potentially four generations of ‘older people’.  With an expected increase, particularly in those aged over 85 years, there will be increasing demand on support services.

Key issues and actions to be addressed included a real need to reduce the impact of social isolation and loneliness.  Since then they have developed and set up Good Neighbours across the Daventry district to help achieve their objectives.  Live schemes have already been established in Crick, Moulton, Welton and Byfield, with a number of other villages in the District also in the process of setting projects up.  They have collectively helped 160 residents, provided 88 volunteers, and have set up referral links with local GP Surgeries.

The aim is to link local people who need support with those who are able to give it – whether it’s helping with a spot of gardening, picking up a prescription or showing someone how to send an email.  Volunteer co-ordinators match the people who need help with those that have volunteered to lend a hand.  The local authority work closely with DACT (Daventry Area Community Transport) and the Daventry Volunteer Centre’s Happy at Home Partnership on the scheme.

The project has been endorsed by The Prince’s Countryside Fund in the Village Survival Guide which features an article on the Good Neighbour Schemes including a quote from Northamptonshire ACRE.

For further information and video blogs please follow this link.

New chair appointed at Northamptonshire Rural

The new chair of Northamptonshire Rural Housing Association (NRHA) is looking forward to providing more affordable homes to enable people to stay in the rural communities they know and love.

Bradley Swingler, who has been a member of the NRHA Board since February 2016, says he will be looking to provide more affordable housing in the south of the county, as well as making a greater commitment to ensuring that new opportunities for development are sought throughout rural Northamptonshire.

“Everyone deserves a good home,” comments Bradley, “and we are committed to providing affordable homes for local people and families who would not otherwise be able to afford to live in the communities where they have grown up, work or have close family ties."

Bradley takes over from Janet Roberts, who has retired after serving on the NRHA Board for 11 years, including three as Chair.

A Chartered Building Surveyor for commercial property consultants, Lambert Smith Hampton, based at their Northampton office, Bradley has extensive knowledge of rural housing issues. He worked previously for South Northants Homes (SNH) Housing Association, where he worked with the Major Works Team delivering the Decent Homes Standard to its 2,900 homes.

Bradley is also currently NRHA’s representative on the Board of Midlands Rural Housing, of which NRHA is a partner.

Bradley adds: “I am delighted to be taking on the role of Chair of NRHA at such a crucial time for rural housing. We have a strong Board at NRHA with a good mix of public body and commercial experience, and we are in a good position financially to continue to work with local authorities, parish councils, community groups, landowners, planners, funders and housing associations to identify and progress dozens of rural housing schemes at varying stages.

“NRHA has worked in Northamptonshire for over 20 years now.  Our homes are very much part of the villages and market towns we serve and we are proud to continue to help people in rural Northamptonshire have a place to call their home.”

Housing First grants available

The Housing First Programme from the Henry Smith Charity is a focused grants programme supporting small to medium sized organisations (between £100K and £5m annual income) to deliver Housing First services.

Housing First offers stable, affordable housing alongside ongoing, intensive person-centred support to enable people to keep their housing and avoid returning to homelessness. Services help people with significant multiple and enduring needs – those for whom other services have failed and homelessness is a long-term enduring issue.

This programme is accepting proposals from organisations currently delivering Housing First services to increase provision and enable services to become more sustainable and effective. They are also open to applications from organisations planning to deliver a Housing First service for the first time. Through these grants they want to help people experiencing multiple and complex needs to leave homelessness behind for good.

Grants are available from £200,000 to £400,000. The closing date for expressions of interest is 4 November 2019.

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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