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The Affordable Rural Housing Crisis

Published on September 2016 | Categories: Types, Research, Arts & Architecture | Downloads: 155 | Comments: 0
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Elinor Goodman, the Chair of the Rural Housing Commission (2006) argued that without a significant expansion in the number of affordable rural housing units many rural settlements might look picturesque but will have lost much of their lifeblood. Through a range of sources, this essay will attempt to critically explore the causes of the affordable housing crisis and evaluate planning’s role in helping to deliver sustainable rural communities.

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THE AFFORDABLE RURAL HOUSING CRISIS

27/02/10

200524134

CIVD370 – Planning for Rural Areas 27/02/10

[THE AFFORDABLE RURAL HOUSING CRISIS]
“Critically explore the causes of the affordable rural housing crisis and evaluate planning’s role in helping to deliver sustainable rural communities.” 1

THE AFFORDABLE RURAL HOUSING CRISIS

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THE AFFORDABLE RURAL HOUSING CRISIS
200524134 27/02/10

CIVD 370 – Planning for Rural Areas

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University of Liverpool Department of Civic Design

The Gordon Stephenson Building, 74, Bedford Street South, Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 2DH

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CONTENTS
Preface Introduction Causes & Consequences of Rural Housing Crisis Understanding the Planning System The Taylor Review Conclusion Bibliography 6 8 10 12 13 4 5

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PREFACE
Elinor Goodman, the Chair of the Rural Housing Commission (2006) argued that without a significant expansion in the number of affordable rural housing units many rural settlements might look picturesque but will have lost much of their lifeblood. Through a range of sources, this essay will attempt to critically explore the causes of the affordable housing crisis and evaluate planning’s role in helping to deliver sustainable rural communities.

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INTRODUCTION
With sharp increases in housing prices across the UK in the early years of the new millennium, housing prices became significantly unaffordable to those who were not already on the property ladder. Between 2002 and 2007, house prices in the UK rose by 90%, faster than any other nation in the EU except Spain1. A common misconception when people talk of such a housing crisis in the country is that they immediately presume the biggest issues are faced with in urban areas, when in fact the problem today can be felt strongest in rural areas of Britain. A rural area can be defined as somewhere that is a remote, isolated, pressurised area, located on and outside the urban fringe. According to the Commission for Rural Communities, 9.7million people lived in rural England in 2007, yet 928,000 rural households were living below the official poverty line. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that often it seems these people in rural areas are forgotten about, and that rural Britain is treated as “another country” to be dealt with (Thomson, 2008).

1 http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/mortgages-and-homes/house-prices/article.html? in_article_id=423872&in_page_id=57

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CAUSES & CONSEQUENCES OF RURAL HOUSING CRISIS
Analysis shows that between 2006 and 2031, demand for new housing as a result of projected household change will grow at a greater rate in rural districts than in urban districts – urban districts will grow by 27% over that period whilst rural districts will grow by 35%2. It is official: population growth in rural areas is greater than in urban areas. Nowhere is it more acute that there is a severe shortage in affordable housing than in rural areas. Even in 2009, during the recession, 65,000 people moved to the countryside3, at a time when mortgages were near impossible to obtain and private building was at an all time low. Many families move in search of “fresher air, an improved lifestyle and a perception that their kids will receive a better education, while accepting that a longer commute is a price worth paying for a rural idyll” (Hetherington, 2009). Houses that are available in rural areas are only accessible to those with a significant income. In some cases, with average rural house prices reaching £187,600, locals would have to borrow over 24 times their annual income to get a mortgage (Orr, 2008). The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) explained that “first-time buyers are still rare and the apparent ‘green shoots’ are being produced by wealthy individuals with access to finance”. Further research by the CRC shows that in sparsely populated communities, house prices had dropped by 7.6% in 2008, compared to a 15.6% fall in urban areas, further intensifying affordability problems in rural towns. The Chief Executive of the National Housing Association, David Orr, further underlines the problem when stating, “Average incomes are relatively low in rural areas and they’re not increasing. The present incidence of house prices coming down has made no difference because mortgages are harder to get, and jobs are as scarce as ever”. It is clear that home ownership is beyond the reach of many people living in rural towns who are on average incomes such as health workers and teachers. For example, Kate Tragunnar, 36, lives in a rural village in Cornwall, and works as a lab assistant in a nearby medical centre; she cannot afford to even rent a property and has to rent out a small room, she explains, “There is not enough building of housing for those on lower incomes. If we don’t find ways to build new, affordable homes, pubs and post offices will continue to close, things that people are concerned about as these are the lifeblood of the towns. It is essential

2 http://www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk/files/CRC%20Web%2042.pdf 3 http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2009/nov/18/rural-housing-crisis

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we create vibrant dynamic communities - we need to build homes for young families”4. The majority of reports that have been processed with regards to the needs of affordable rural housing all lead to the same damning conclusion that there is simply not enough houses being built, nor is it likely that enough will be built in the future. The issues of land purchasing, planning, construction, energy supply and water treatment all add to the complications of building affordable housing in rural areas5. In 2008, the government set a target of building 2,800 new affordable homes in rural England. With nearly 3 quarters of a million people on waiting lists for rural housing6, the government’s target was missed by almost 14%, with only 2,415 units completed7. It is little wonder that such targets are not being met when there are many people in rural communities who do not want to see affordable housing in their communities, and thus there is vociferous opposition against affordable housing needs (Flint, 2008). Regardless of any cases of NIMBYism, it is clear that the government must address this need for more social homes in the countryside otherwise Britain will be dotted with unbalanced rural communities that don’t include or cater for all ages and financial needs8.

4 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7640256.stm 5 http://www.barleymanor.co.uk/index.php/affordable-housing/affordable-housing-thefacts/ 6 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7640256.stm 7 http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2009/nov/18/rural-housing-crisis 8 http://www.barleymanor.co.uk/index.php/affordable-housing/affordable-housing-thefacts/

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UNDERSTANDING THE PLANNING SYSTEM
A number of key documents and policies have been published in response to the housing crisis Britain faces. One of the key documents issued in an attempt to improve the way local planning authorities deal with land supply for new housing was the “Barker Review of Housing Supply 2004”. Within the document, Barker notes that housing has become increasingly unaffordable over time, and that “the aspiration for home ownership is as strong as ever, yet the reality is that for many this aspiration will remain unfulfilled unless the trend in real house prices is reduced. This brings potential for an ever widening social and economic divide between those able to access market housing and those that are kept out”. The official overall objectives of the review were to: • • • • achieve improvements in housing affordability in the market sector; achieve a more stable housing market; improve the location of housing supply which supports patterns of economic development; and, create an adequate supply of publicly-funded housing for those who need it.

The overriding theme of the Barker review is that, if land is available, then it should be made available to facilitate the demand for affordable housing and thus reducing the disparity between house prices and wages. Essentially this means that those rural areas that are in desperate need of affordable homes should be allocated land to be developed specifically for social housing. Barker’s work leads to a conclusion that England needs 40,000-48,000 socially rented homes annually, yet it ignores all households that seek to own or rent in the private housing market with support from the government and no attempt is made to differentiate between rural and urban areas (Commission for Rural Communities, 2006). The CRC highlight two key actions in an attempt to supply affordable housing: 9

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1. Housing cross-subsidised by market developers through planning agreements, which, as well as providing rented housing through housing associations, may also be targeted at meeting the ‘intermediate needs’ of those unable to afford market housing, but who do not qualify for social housing. 2. The provision of subsidised ‘social housing’(Social Housing Grant) for those unable to compete in the market or unable to afford intermediate housing, including the homeless, families in unsatisfactory accommodation and, often in rural areas, those on low wages etc. One of the best practices of the above actions recommended by the CRC is through the use of Section 106 Agreements. Section 106 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 allows Local Planning Authorities to enter into legally-binding agreements or planning obligations with a landowner in association with the granting of planning permission9. Such agreements have the power to be used in improving levels of affordable rural housing in rural areas where people wish to submit a development application, as the Section 106 agreement presents the opportunity to gain land to develop for affordable housing. This form of policy is becoming increasingly important as it remains difficult to secure sites to provide affordable homes (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2005). Between 2000/01 and 2002/03 the proportion of affordable homes built with a planning agreement increased from 30 to 47%. On the contrary, the number of Social Housing Grant homes completed fell from 21,451 in 2000/01 to 13,949 in 2002/03 (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2005), representing a decline. It is clear that in order to significantly improve the provision of affordable rural housing, both Section 106 agreements and Social Housing Grants must be used in tandem to drive levels of social housing development in the countryside. In response to the Barker review, the government published Planning Policy Statement 3 (Housing) in 2006. The PPS document states a need for a ‘visionary & strategic’ approach to planning for housing, based on ‘market responsiveness’ and the use of market information (Gallent et. al, 2008). Furthermore, the document explains that the need for ‘affordable housing’ will mean using the development control process to negotiate the inclusion of ‘low cost’ housing products in new housing schemes (Gallent et. al, 2008). In replacing Planning Policy Guidance 3, the new policy statement sets out how the government is “committed to providing high quality housing for people who are unable to access or afford market housing (including social rented and intermediate housing)”. The new policy places emphasis on local authorities to set targets for affordable housing; specify the size/type of affordable housing needed; set out the circumstances in which affordable housing will be required; and set out an approach to seeking developer contributions. One of the key points made in PPS3 is that local authorities are able to reduce the national indicative minimum size site threshold from 15 dwellings to suit the circumstances required. This
9 http://www.idea.gov.uk/idk/core/page.do?pageId=71631

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means lower minimum thresholds can be set, particularly in rural areas, encouraging a larger proportion of affordable homes to be built as part of the overall housing mix. Following on from PPS3, and in an attempt to develop previous discussion, Kate Barker produced a Review of Land-Use Planning, which called for “a local review of green belt boundaries, a streamlining of national planning policy, an improved strategic framework for infrastructure provision and a new approach to planning at the local level” (Gallent et. al, 2008).

THE TAYLOR REVIEW
In July 2008, The Taylor Review of Rural Economy & Affordable Housing was produced in order to build on past reviews and policy documents, and to set a vision and aim for the future of rural settlements. The review recognises that rural villages across England are now at a cross roads in which they will continue to be exclusive enclaves for the wealthy and retired; or they can develop into thriving communities by providing affordable homes for people to live and work in the area. It claims that, “just a handful of well designed homes, kept affordable in perpetuity for local people, will make all the difference to the sustainability of the community and its services. On top of this, the review looks at ways of providing better opportunities for the people who live in small rural communities to find quality work, and build successful businesses. Taylor warns the government through the document that unless such actions are carried out, “more villages will turn into commuter dormitories, at the cost of fewer local jobs, declining local services, and the loss of a genuine community life”. Just like the Barker report, the Taylor review highlights that large scale migration to rural areas has increased the rural population by 800,000 over the past ten years, while pushing rural housing prices way above the national average. A quote from the review states, “in 2007 the cost of an average family home was over £8,000 more expensive in rural areas compared to urban areas, and first time buyer homes were £16,000 dearer”. The review acknowledges that the combination of high house prices and low rural wages is putting rural housing out

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of the reach of many who work in the country side as, “the average wage in most rural areas is just £20,289 compared to £27,487 in urban areas”. The overriding objective of the report is to “help ensure the planning system brings a positive, lasting legacy of places in which people actually want to live. It suggests changes to the planning system necessary to deliver vibrant communities with a distinct identity, in keeping with the character of their surroundings, and which enhance the local landscape and bio-diversity”. The objectives are delivered through five core chapters, each touching upon different areas of rural planning and concluding with problems in the current system. Taylor’s first four chapters relate to ways in which we can develop a living, working countryside that will encourage new development and advancement in rural planning. Over 49 recommendations are presented throughout the document as means to improving the state of our countryside, with the 1st stating that “Planning policy should be reviewed by the government as a body to create a more coherent set, reducing apparent conflicts between interpretations of sustainability, and the means by which competing priorities are assessed, and by doing so aid consistent interpretation and application at the local and regional level”. This was met by the government by producing the first streamlined PPS document: PPS4 in December 2009; while committing to rural proofing all policies to take account of rural circumstances and needs. Further recommendations build on the need for affordable rural housing, as recommendation ten requests “a pathfinder fund for an exemplar programme should be set up to develop best practice for local planning authorities in master planning housing and economic growth to create new neighbourhoods and community extensions for their communities – with a focus on rural areas.” Although the government did not agree to dispense with the PPS on eco-towns, it did take on board Taylor’s advice on consulting more widely on ways to promote Masterplanning by publishing the Rural Master Planning Fund prospectus in November 2009. A large proportion of the recommendations within the report have some relation and effect upon affordable rural housing and economy, and the overwhelming response from the government has been of a similar outlook to the two examples given. It is clear the government have taken on board much of what the Taylor Review has put forward, and have already responded in delivering what is required of them whether it be through policy reform, or increased funding.

Recommendation 28:

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CONCLUSION
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The lack of affordable housing is a national problem, but the need is clearly even more acute in rural areas across the country. Low wage levels; a high proportion of second home ownership; an increase in commuter homes; a shortage of land available for development; the high price of building land; and, the need for quality design to fit in with the surrounding environment, are all factors that play a big role in the rural affordable housing problem. These problems can be met head on, but only with the guidance of the Government and Local Authorities in developing strategic policies that encourage the building of affordable homes in areas of greatest need, while overcoming the opposition of NIMBYism and the “development versus conservation” argument.

Recommendation 12:

BIBLIOGRAPHYmm
ndat 13:
• • • • • Barker, K. (2004), Barker Review of Housing Supply: Delivering Stability: Securing Our Future Housing Needs, HM Treasury: London Barker, K. (2006), Barker Review of Land Use Planning: Final Report: Recommendations, HM Treasury: London Commission for Rural Communities (2006), Tackling Rural Disadvantage: Calculating Housing Needs in Rural England, CRC: Cheltenham Communities & Local Government (2010), Government response to the Taylor Review, DCLG: London Communities & Local Government (2006), Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing, DCLG: London 14

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• •

• • • • •

• • • • • • •

Gallant, N., Juntti, M., Kidd, S., Shaw, D., (2008), Introduction to Rural Planning, Routledge, New York Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2005), Findings Informing Change: Have Planning Agreements Increased the Supply of Affordable Housing, The Homestead Lake District National Park Authority (2006), Supplementary Planning Document on Demonstrating Housing Need, LDNP: Kendal Taylor, M. (2008), Living Working Countryside: Taylor Review of Rural Economy & Affordable Housing, DCLG: London http://www.barleymanor.co.uk/index.php/affordable-housing/affordablehousing-the-facts/ (accessed: 1/3/10) http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2009/nov/18/rural-housingcrisis# (accessed: 26/2/10) http://www.hmtreasury.gov.uk/barker_review_of_housing_supply_recommendations.htm (accessed: 28/2/10 http://www.idea.gov.uk/idk/core/page.do?pageId=71631 (accessed: 28/2/10) http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/index/planning/planning_policies/planningpo liciesweuse.htm (accessed: 26/2/10) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7640256.stm (accessed: 28/2/10) http://www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk/files/CRC%20Web%2042.pdf (accessed: 1/3/10) http://www.ruralhousing.org.uk/ (accessed: 1/3/10) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/alicethomson/3555846/R ural-Britain-remains-another-country.html (accessed: 27/2/10) http://www.24dash.com/news/Housing/2009-03-25-Government-putsaffordable-housing-at-heart-of-rural-communities-action-plan (accessed: 2/2/10)

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