Rural communities ‘face shortfall of 60,000 homes’

The Countryside Alliance has revealed that there will be an annual shortfall of nearly 60,000 affordable units in 2010/11 for England’s rural areas leading to warnings that those communities could “shrivel up and die”. 

A Freedom of Information request to all local authorities asked how many affordable homes were identified as needed in their latest Housing Needs Survey, and the date of that survey and how many affordable homes they planned for 2010/2011.

Of the 135 rural and semi-rural councils in England, that responded, there was an identified annual need of 76,532 new affordable units. The delivery targets set for 2010/11, however, amounted to just 17,208 or 22 per cent of the identified need, equating to a shortfall of 59,324.

Overall, there was a shortfall of 176,360 affordable homes (76%) across the 306 councils that responded, with a need for 230,547 new units and targets to build only 54,187 in 2010/11.

Rural housing remains less affordable than in urban areas, says the alliance, where average prices are 5.4 times average annual earnings in the countryside.

Those young people unable to find homes often move to urban areas, placing a further strain on affordable housing in towns and cities.

Alice Barnard, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “Even in the current difficult economic climate, meeting rural housing need must continue to be a priority for the Government, its agencies and local authorities.

“The Countryside Alliance’s research highlights that affordable housing provision is a huge challenge in both urban and rural areas. But if the rural need for affordable housing is not addressed, and urgently, many of those communities upon which our countryside depends will shrivel and die.”

Housing minister Grant Shapps said the needs of the countryside were being taken seriously by the Government. He said: “Under Labour, house building fell to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s. Unlike Labour, the Coalition Government takes the needs of the countryside and rural communities seriously. We are rewarding councils for helping build more homes through the New Homes Bonus, rolling out an innovative Affordable Homes building programme, and are allowing local communities to build local homes for local people through a new Community Right to Build.”

Alison Seabeck MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, said: “People aspiring to their own home in communities across the country are suffering as a result of this Tory-led Government’s failure on affordable housing. In government, Labour delivered 256,000 additional affordable homes in its last 5 years in office – over a third more new homes than this Government says it will provide.

“At the same time, the Tories and Lib Dems voted against Labour’s proposal for more affordable house building paid for by taxing bankers’ bonuses, which would have helped thousands of families across the country.”