Campaign to Protect Rural England says there is a '133-year waiting list' for rural social housing

Coun Blackie.
Coun Blackie.

Damning analysis of new Government figures suggests that it would take 133 years to home all of the families waiting for social housing in rural areas at the rate that they are being built.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) data released yesterday shows there are now 177,688 families on the waiting list for social housing in rural council areas – yet last year, just 1,336 such rental homes were built in those locations, according to Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Its analysis is a fresh blow to rural communities “suffering silently” amid fears that such areas in Yorkshire could become “retirement homes for the wealthy”.

There are currently 16,555 households on social housing waiting lists in rural authorities in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, according to CPRE – including 6,337 in East Yorkshire and 6,808 in North Yorkshire.

Minister of State for Housing, Kit Malthouse MP, last night said that the current government has “made it our mission” to reverse a 30-year failure of successive administrations to build enough homes, and added that it was investing £9bn in affordable housing until March 2022.

The Upper Dales Community Land Trust leader, Councillor John Blackie, was not surprised by the figures and believes that a lack of affordable housing can drive young families away.

“These are the warning sings of storm clouds not on the horizon, but directly above us,” he said.

“It’s a desperate situation. If we are not careful, many of our rural communities will be retirement homes for the wealthy.”

The trust creates protected homes for rent in the Yorkshire Dales – but Coun Blackie said this type of scheme is harder to develop than many realise.

“Unless they make things easier for grassroots organisations in the planning application process and in the application for funding, then the dream of seeing rural communities having a future with housing that they need to accommodate the need for young families, it will never happen. There really has to be more than wishing it. It’s got to be driven forward by a Government that is intent on making sure rural areas don’t miss out when it comes to housing.”

CPRE is now calling for further substantial investment in social house-building for rural areas from the Government, with a proportion of grant funding for use in those areas to be ring-fenced in line with the proportion of the population living there.

Lois Lane, research and policy adviser at CPRE, said: “As social housing waiting lists continue to rise right across the country, it is clear that councils are not able to build enough to meet anyone’s needs. But our analysis shows a clear disparity in focus and funding that has left a large number of rural communities suffering silently, and in real danger of being left behind.

“There is a misconception that people living in the countryside don’t feel the effects of the housing crisis, but that couldn’t be further than the truth.

“Average house prices are higher and wages lower than in major towns and cities, and the continued failure to build enough social homes has actually made the situation especially challenging in rural communities.”

The government said in a response that last year, the number of people on local authority housing waiting lists fell by four per cent.

Homes England has dedicated “rural housing champions” in each of their operating areas, who “remain active across the rural housing sector,” it added.

Minister of State for Housing Kit Malthouse MP said: “For the last 30 years, governments of all stripes and types have failed to build enough homes.

“This Government has made it our mission to turn that around and we have already delivered 119,000 affordable homes in rural areas since 2010.

“We still need to deliver more, better faster so we have given councils the freedom to build a new generation of council houses and are investing £9bn in affordable housing up until March 2022.”