English town of Reeth in the Yourkshire Dales

Report warns of threat to rural communities

A new report from CPRE has outlined how a lack of genuinely affordable housing threatens the survival of rural communities across England.

The report, titled ‘Unravelling a crisis: The state of rural affordable housing in England’ looks into the causes of the crisis, whilst also considering the way that it affects real people and explaining what the next government can do to solve it. Being blamed for ‘driving people out of the communities that they know and love’, the reasons for the crisis have been identified as:

  • Record house prices
  • Stagnating wages
  • Huge waiting lists for social housing
  • A proliferation of second homes and short-term lets

Due to these issues forcing people out of rural communities, skills and economic activity are now being taken out of the countryside.

According to the report, rural England has a social housing waiting list of more than 300,000 people, with this presenting a rise of over 10% in five years. At the current rate of social housing construction, it would take just under 90 years to ensure that everyone on the waiting list is offered a home. One reason for this is the inability of local authorities to replace homes that have been bought through Right to Buy, with this leading to a chronic shortage.

Rural communities quote

Outlined in the report are a number of recommendations for the government, with the aim of solving the countryside housing crisis, these include:

  • Ensuring that the term ‘affordable housing’ is directly linked to average local incomes
  • Increasing the minimum number of genuinely affordable housing that is required through national planning policy, as well as establishing ambitious targets for the construction of socially rented homes.
  • Supporting local communities to deliver small-scale developments of affordable housing, as well as making it easier for councils to buy land, helping with the construction of social housing and vital infrastructure.
  • Introducing a register of second homes and short-term lets, with this bringing new powers for local authorities to levy additional council tax on second homes.
  • Extending restrictions on the resale of affordable housing in parishes with less than 3,000 inhabitants, making sure that properties can continue to be used by local workers, rather than as second homes or holiday lets.

Roger Mortlock, Chief Executive at CPRE, said:

“Decades of inaction have led to an affordable housing crisis that is ripping the soul from our rural communities. Solutions do exist and the next government must set and deliver ambitious targets for new, genuinely affordable and social rented rural housing, curbing the boom of second homes and short-term lets.

“Record house prices and huge waiting lists for social housing are driving people out of rural communities, contributing to soaring levels of often hidden rural homelessness. Urgent change is required to ensure we don’t end up with rural communities that are pricing out the very people needed to keep them vibrant.”


Image credit: iStock

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