Parish councils could help with housing crisis

Valley Park Housing Estate, Udimore Road, Rye'05/09/11 ENGSNL00120110509122146
Valley Park Housing Estate, Udimore Road, Rye'05/09/11 ENGSNL00120110509122146

Parish Council’s could play a key role in helping to deliver affordable housing in rural areas according to a new report.

The Rural Housing Alliance and Rural Services Network have joined forces to launch a guide aimed at helping town and parish councils to tackle the crisis.

The guide opens with a call to action from HRH The Princess Royal, a long-standing advocate of affordable rural housing, encouraging parish councils to take the lead in tackling the affordable housing crisis facing the countryside.

The Princess, who is patron of the English Rural Housing Association, said: “Small scale affordable rural housing developments help to rebalance communities, keeping families together whilst providing a boost for local services.

“Parish and town councils are a driving force for change and a key partner in delivering affordable homes for local people.”

The need from local people for affordable rural housing continues to increase as demand for rural living soars, with greater access to the countryside, low levels of development and migration from high income urban households all major causes.

Low income families living in rural areas now face a difficult future, often having to move, leaving support and employment networks behind them.

Recent analysis found that in 90% of rural areas, property prices were on average eight times local incomes.

This unsustainable affordability gap is destabilising many villages, driving out low income households and starving local services of employees and customers.

The guide provides the building blocks to identify and tackle the housing needs at a local level. Ensuring that the problem is fully understood and the solution tailored to local circumstances.

RSN chief executive Graham Biggs said: “We are really pleased to have been able to work hand in hand with the Rural Housing Alliance to produce this excellent guide which we know will be very well received across rural England.”

Rural Housing Alliance chairman Peter Moore says the importance of this problem should not be underestimated.

He said: “This is not a new crisis, but one that continues to get worse.

“Many rural communities are approaching a watershed moment where, if nothing is done, longstanding local families, businesses and cultures will disappear, damaging the very way of life that makes our villages so appealing.

“Maintaining a balance of income earners, household types and age groups is crucial to keeping villages vibrant and active. Developments of affordable rural homes help to achieve this balance and diversity.”

The Guide claims that the most successful affordable rural housing developments are initiated and supported by active and committed parish and town councils.

It says councils are often the first to hear the concerns of local housing needs in the community.