HOUSE prices rising faster than incomes are forcing people in their thirties to move out of the countryside.
The "stark demographic shift" was laid bare by new figures unveiled by the National Housing Federation.
Over the past decade, rural house prices have nearly doubled, despite incomes rising more slowly than in urban areas, it said.
Figures from the federation show that the number of people aged 30-44 has dropped nearly 9% in rural areas over the last ten years, despite numbers rising in urban areas.
During the same period, average house prices nearly doubled, up 82% from £126,016 to £228,742.
But wages have not kept pace, rising 17% slower in rural areas than in urban areas over the last five years, said the federation.
The analysis also shows that the number of children under 10 in rural areas has fallen 2%, although numbers have risen 6% elsewhere.
Overall, there are 2% fewer under-45s in rural areas but 6% more under-45s in urban areas.
At the same time, the number of over-65s in rural areas has risen by 20% – 2.5 times faster than in towns and cities when it has risen 8%.
"Young people are being priced out of rural England by rising housing costs and are moving elsewhere to raise their families," said Gill Payne, the federation's director of campaigns and neighbourhoods.
"What will happen to the local shops and pubs, the village school, the small businesses that maintain rural economies, if there's no-one left to keep them open?
"If we don't start building more homes that ordinary families can afford, our treasured rural England will become the preserve of the old and wealthy."
Of the ten rural areas across England with the biggest rise in house prices, only three have seen an increase under 45s over the last ten years:
Of the ten rural areas with the biggest fall in under 45s, all but North Warwickshire saw above-average rises in house prices:
Ms Payne said: "It's up to all of us to halt this rural decline. Tell your local councillor to say yes to village life and yes to homes."
The National Housing Federation unveiled the figures as it joined with housing associations around the country for Rural Housing Week (10-16 June).
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