Changes to rural housing policy are ‘slap in the face’

RURAL campaigners have warned that a Government decision to stop requiring developers to build affordable housing on smaller sites is a “slap in the face” for rural communities.

Leah Swain of Rural Action Yorkshire

Communities minister Brandon Lewis announced the changes, which remove affordable housing contributions from sites of fewer five homes in rural areas, on Friday. The Rural Services Network (RSN) claimed the move was “ill thought out”.

“This decision is a huge blow for rural communities. It is very, very disappointing news,” RSN housing spokesman Andy Dean said. “Affordable housing is key to retaining young people in rural communities and in smaller rural settlements, this is how most new affordable homes are delivered.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Removing the policy could “decimate” the provision of rural affordable housing, he added. The organisation is calling on the Government to reverse the decision in relation to rural areas.

“These planning requirements are the mechanism which delivers most of the new affordable homes in our villages. Without them, families will be priced out of the countryside,” said Mr Dean.

“There is scant evidence that such planning agreements undermine development site viability and, where local authorities conclude it would, they can already reduce the burden.”

“We have to find a better way to balance the government’s desire to encourage small scale builders with the over-riding need to provide affordable homes in rural communities.”

Leah Swain, chief officer at Rural Action Yorkshire, said the decision would have a “devastating” effect, “reducing the number of rural affordable housing on small sites to nil over the coming years.”

“This is a real slap in the face for hard-working families on low incomes. They will now find it almost impossible to afford a house in their community and may be forced to move if rents continue to rise.

“There will, no doubt, be an increase in housing in rural areas as a result of these changes – but we expect to see developers only building housing at market prices to obtain the greatest profits. More executive homes won’t provide a sustainable future for our communities.

“We’re hugely disappointed that the government has chosen to ignore our fears.”