What is affordable housing?
Most people know what they mean when they talk about “affordable housing” – they mean housing which someone living and working in the community can afford to buy, or housing for rent available at a monthly rent which can be afforded by someone on a local wage. According to the Gov.UK Definitions of General Housing terms, affordable housing is social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices. From April 2012 affordable housing is defined in the National Planning Policy Framework.
The Planning authority uses planning conditions and legal agreements (known as section 106 agreements) to ensure affordable homes remain at an affordable price for future eligible households. In some cases, homes can be bought and sold at full market value but only if the increase in value is recycled to provide more affordable homes.
This report looks at the key issue for housing policy: how to satisfy demand for housing in England, with at least 230,000 new homes a year needing to be built until 2020, according to Government figures. And in rural areas, new homes are needed to keep communities viable because without these homes, rural communities will lose young people and services needed to keep those areas alive. This report proposes a raft of recommendations and ideas to help solve the housing crisis. Download here.
Issues surrounding the number and affordability of the housing stock in rural areas are well known. The impacts on village communities have been great with those residents on more modest incomes often being forced to move away to satisfy their housing needs elsewhere. This can result in the loss of facilities such as shops, schools, GP surgeries, Post Offices, pubs, etc. from the village, along with the sense of community.
This has been highlighted by new figures recently issued by the National Housing Federation, which shows that house prices rising faster than incomes are forcing people in their thirties to move out of the countryside. Over the past decade, rural house prices have nearly doubled, despite incomes rising more slowly than in urban areas and this is leading to a significant drop in the number of people aged 30-44 living in rural areas.
“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.”
Read more details here. One way rural communities have attempted to address this problem is by constructing affordable housing schemes in their area. Affordable rural housing can be summarised in the following way:
- built with a subsidy by a housing association and made available for rent or shared ownership
- priority in allocations is given to households with a local connection to a village
- remains affordable for local people in perpetuity.
However, in the ever changing world we live in, it is important the issues relating to affordable housing are constantly monitored. The completion of an affordable housing scheme does not mean that the problem is solved forever. Local people in search of a home of their own are constantly appearing. It is also essential to ensure that suitable housing is available for every group within the local community, and not just the more easily recognisable majority.
The Commission for Rural Communities has funded and published the above report on rural housing by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research which focused on:
- The changing levels of rents (both private and social) and the quality and location of available housing
- The impact of recent and forthcoming government policies on social and private tenants, including the changes to Housing Benefit and the overall benefit caps
- Migration: The numbers of people forced to relocate from rural areas, or unable to live where they would choose to do so.
The results of the research are not unexpected but never the less a number of the findings are worrying because of their consequence for people living in rural housing, in particular the housing quality of homes in rural areas. The research identifies that homes in rural areas are substantially more likely to fail to meet the decent homes standard and to have much higher rates of thermal inefficiency, with 56% of private rented homes in hamlets or isolated dwellings having a SAP rating of under 30 (the worst rating) as compared with only 7% in urban areas. Social housing doesn’t have such a low SAP rating but still has higher rates of inefficient homes in rural areas. With rising fuel prices, falling incomes and benefit levels, this thermal inefficiency raises real concerns over fuel poverty.
If you would like to read the full report it is available to download from the CRC website or a summary is available here. Alternatively read the ACRE briefing about the report entitled “Rural Housing at a time of economic change“.
If you are living in a rural community, having to rely on domestic heating oil and have concerns about your fuel costs, why not check out our Bulk Oil buying scheme. It can save you money as well as being good for the environment!