29/06/22 - RSN Seminar: Rural Affordable Housing

Date: 29th June 2022
Subject: Rural Affordable Housing
Chair: Kerry Booth, Deputy Chief Executive, Rural Services Network
- To download the Agenda for this seminar click here
- To view the introduction from the RSN click here
- To download the Learning Outcomes from this seminar click here

Learning Outcomes

Examples of Good Practice/Reports/Information

“Carbon costs and comfort”

  • Hastoe Group is the largest rural housing specialist in England, with over 7,500 homes offering a mix of social rent and shared ownership.
  • Sustainable development is key. For homes to be built effectively there is a need to reduce energy consumptionthereby making homes more affordable to run and lessening environmental impact. Hastoe uses a fabric first approach to ensure homes built require minimum energy by using features like triple glazing, high levels of insulation and good airtightness.
  • Hastoe’s new homes standard ensures affordable rural homes are: beautiful in design, energy efficient, have minimal environmental impact, are adaptable and accessible, are an appropriate size, have quality control throughout, future proofed and have reduced water consumption. To read more about the standard visit:
    https://www.hastoe.com/about-us/building-homes/our-new-build-standard/ and
  • Uncertainty over planning reforms is a concern for housing associations, it is difficult to plan with so many potential changes afoot: the move from S106 to Infrastructure Levy, Right to Buy, nutrient neutrality to name but a few.
  • Other challenges facing the sector include the cost-of-living crisis, labour shortages and contractors unfamiliar with sustainable building techniques.

“Levelling up or letting down rural communities”

  • Rural areas are not the same as urban areas. Rural incomes are typically lower, the fuel poverty gap is higher, employment and training is harder to access and last but not least homes are less affordable (with perhaps the exception of London).
  • High demand and scarcity of supply in rural areas push house prices beyond what local residents can afford – often resulting in their displacement. This particularly impacts the younger generation who have not yet entered the housing market, or who are looking to rent/buy for the first time.
  • But it’s important to note that not all rural areas are the same, some areas (particularly coastal) may be experiencing an influx of retirees, whereas in peripheral high amenity areas, a predominance of second and holiday homes has emerged – for example in the Lake District. This is in contrast with more remote rural areas that are experiencing a declining economic base where housing is perhaps more of a symptom of these economic challenges (rather than because of external housing market pressures).
  • There need to be much stronger ties between the levelling up and rural proofing agendas. They must work collaboratively and side by side if they are to have meaningful positive implications for rural communities. To do this, there needs to be a clear understanding of the challenges rural areas are facing right now, and the important role that rural communities and businesses play in the national economy, in achieving our net zero targets, and in enhancing national wellbeing.
  • Rural areas are not stagnant, isolated or backward. They’re diverse, they’re dynamic, they’re innovative. And we’re all reliant on their success. And this success, to a significant degree, relies on a good supply of housing that is affordable for rural residents to both buy and to rent. This is one of the biggest challenges rural communities are facing today, and it’s a significant barrier to their economic prosperity.
  • To find out more about RTPI’s Rural Planning in the 2020s research project please follow this link https://www.rtpi.org.uk/ruralplanning.

“Affordable rural housing during the cost-of-living crisis”

Open Forum Discussion

Air Source Heat Pumps – question posed about the high costs associated in running electric pumps. It was agreed that developers and consumers need to understand that air source heat pumps are not a direct replacement for a boiler.  A house needs to be heat pump ready (well insulated and airtight) and the pump properly installed and set up for a heat pump to work efficiently.

Increased Electricity Demand – debate about whether the increased electricity demand caused by adding EV chargers, air source heat pumps etc., had any implications on network approval for new schemes. It was highlighted that there was an assumption that additional sub stations are needed (often making small rural schemes financially inviable) but if houses are built efficiently this needn’t be the case.

Skills Gaps – are there skills gaps in rural areas due to a lack of affordable rural housing? It was agreed that yes there were, we know for example there is a shortage in health and care worker staff in rural areas particularly in tourist hot spots.

Average incomes - how appropriate is it to use average incomes as the measure of affordability when the average can be seriously skewed by the dominance of well-off households? A really good point and an important issue that’s needs to be understood. The RSN’s position is that average local earnings is a much better metric to use as a true measure of local pay, rather than commuter pay or income derived from share dividends, pensions, etc.

Accessing Funding – small rural housing associations find it difficult to access grant funding as they have limited capacity. It was highlighted that Homes England are looking at this issue and that Lord Benyon is keen to see more but smaller developments across rural communities, policy however hasn’t caught up with this thinking yet.  That said Wave 2 of Social Housing Decarbonisation Funds will be easier for smaller housing associations to bid into.

Useful links to share

Airband is an independent internet service provider bringing high speed broadband to homes, business, and industry in rural and hard-to-reach areas. To find out more and check availability visit https://www.airband.co.uk/


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