Members of a landmark rural commission have admitted they face a critical task in addressing North Yorkshire’s affordable housing crisis as they tackle one of the biggest challenges for countryside communities.
The soaring cost of property has priced many rural residents, especially young families, out of the housing market, putting the future of villages and market towns in jeopardy.
The eight members of the independent commission, the first of its kind nationally which was established in October to look at a host of economic and social problems in North Yorkshire, will focus on the issue of affordable housing when they meet this month.
The Rural Commission’s chairman, the Dean of Ripon, John Dobson, said the next session will discuss where housing need is greatest, as well as analysing the planning application process.
Details of the affordability and availability of property will also be researched to build up a “hard evidence base for the complex issues underpinning rural housing”, according to the Dean.
He added: “At our last session, we heard a great deal about improving connectivity via better transport, technology and education in relation to supporting jobs and the economy.
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“Housing availability and affordability is also a critical issue to the economy in rural areas in how it impacts on the availability of skills and the needs of businesses and employees.”
North Yorkshire remains a property hotspot, with Ryedale and Harrogate deemed to be the least affordable districts in the North of England in which to buy a home.
According to the National Housing Federation, a property in the Harrogate district costs an average of £337,349, while in Ryedale the average cost of a home is £257,523.
Housing is even more expensive in the county’s two National Parks, the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, due largely to the demand for holiday homes.
However, average weekly pay in North Yorkshire is below that of Great Britain, although salaries are above the regional average in Yorkshire and Humber.
The weekly wage in North Yorkshire is £531, while the figure stands at £571 for Great Britain. However, the average weekly pay for Yorkshire and the Humber is £520.
The commission was launched in October, and it has already looked into agriculture and the environment as well as the gulf between wages and the rising cost of living. A range of other issues will be researched over the next five months, including transport and digital connectivity as well as education and training.
The Rural Commission will then present a series of recommendations to North Yorkshire County Council and its partners in the summer.