Villagers encouraged to follow Hudswell by reaping benefits of community-led housing

A shortage of affordable housing for young families to remain in countryside communities is one of the biggest threats to rural life.

Hudswell village in Richmondshire where three community-led houses were completed in 2017. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

In the Yorkshire Dales, there are 44 per cent fewer residents aged 16 to 34 compared to the national average and the trend threatens to undermine the sustainability of communities.

A coalition of local authorities is working on a strategy to tackle the problem and last month, Richmondshire District Council set aside £20,000 for a strategic action plan focused on community-led and self-build housing, jobs creation and support, improving digital communications and strengthening services in main settlements.

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The Richmondshire village of Hudswell, a few miles outside of Richmond, provides ideal inspiration for communities looking to take matters into their own hands.

In The Yorkshire Post in July 2017, we reported on Hudswell when three community-led homes were being built in the village. Completed four months later, they are now occupied by two young families and one older person, all of whom had existing links to the village.

Martin Booth is secretary of Hudswell Community Charity which delivered and manages the new homes. He said: “The families that have moved in really love them. They are cheap to heat, modern and two of the families have two children so it’s been a success in that respect.”

The charity runs three other homes in the village on a community-led basis and may look for more.

Mr Booth said: “We don’t have the resources at the moment but we might get involved in developing the parish church which has been closed for four years.”

Mr Booth will talk at a briefing held by Yorkshire Community First at Husthwaite Village Hall on Saturday, March 16 at 10am which aims to inspire communities to pursue similar schemes.

“Apart from anything else, there’s government funding that allows you to do it,” he said. “As a community it allows you to control what housing looks like, how it is built and who lives there, and it is friends and neighbours that can benefit.”

The Government has released £163m through its Community Housing Fund to address the supply of affordable new homes.

Leah Swain, chief executive of Community First Yorkshire, said: “Community-led housing is all about finding like-minded volunteers who are keen to be able to provide the right housing in their village or market town for older people wishing to downsize, young families, or young people leaving home. It’s a great opportunity.”

Mr Booth added it can only be part of the solution to the shortage of affordable housing because there is a limit to how much housing can be built and managed by a community.