North Yorkshire commission calls for grass roots approach to tackle rural housing crisis

A member of a landmark rural commission has called for a far more coordinated approach between landowners and councils to help address the affordable housing crisis which is gripping countryside communities across Yorkshire.

Bainbridge near Hawes in North Yorkshire is one of the villages in need of more affordable housing in the region. Photo credit: Tony Johnson

The dire lack of affordable properties available to both buy and rent has been blamed for an exodus of young people from many villages and market towns across the country.

In some of the most desirable districts to live in North Yorkshire, the average property costs nearly £400,000 while the weekly wage in the county is just over £530.

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The Yorkshire Post revealed on Saturday that housing experts had warned the Government that Yorkshire and the rest of northern England are being “frozen out” of vital home-building schemes because of funding criteria which favour London and the South East.

Rules designed to tackle the over-heating housing market in and around the capital mean the vast majority of northern councils are not eligible to bid for 80 per cent of funds handed out by government agency Homes England to help them build new homes.

The North Yorkshire Rural Commission, set up specifically to look at the challenges facing the region’s rural communities, has heard evidence from individuals and organisations on the county’s challenges surrounding housing in the county.

Potential solutions put forward to the commission have included community led-housing to lead the way on small, isolated developments.

Alongside this more powers for local and parish councils, including granting rights and buying back property in new developments and working alongside landowners to provide affordable houses.

Sir William Worsley, a North Yorkshire landowner who is a member of the Rural Commission, said: "It is key that local authorities work with landowners to provide affordable housing, if it is to be delivered. If they don’t it won’t happen, as is currently so often the case.

"The best way is to consider exception sites that would not normally obtain planning consent for housing and allow a small amount of open market properties to be built along with the affordable ones.

"This is so there is both something in it for the landowner and the affordable houses are part of a mixed community."

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.

Sir William added: "Villages need to be mixed communities and it is important that working people can continue to live in villages and that they don’t become places for retirees.

"Lack of affordable housing means that villages risk becoming places for older people with young people living in the towns. Villages need to be ‘the living tapestry of a mixed community."

The Rural 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.

It will present a series of recommendations to North Yorkshire County Council and its partners in the summer.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “The Government is committed to delivering the 300,000 new homes each year by the mid-2020s that the country needs and providing the right number of affordable homes in the North is a priority.

“Thanks to government investment, people in the North will have access to many more new homes, and better transport links, building on our £13bn investment in transport across the North.

“We are also investing £9bn to deliver more affordable homes across the country and are working with authorities across the region to ensure more people in the North get a foot on the housing ladder and achieve their dream of home ownership.”