Addressing the Housing Divide in England's Counties

The County Council Network’s latest report unveils the critical role counties play in housing over half of the country's population, highlighting a significant shift towards outright homeownership and private renting. This shift points to a deepening divide in housing access, with unaffordability and a shortage of affordable homes at its core. While counties have been instrumental in supplying over 51% of England's housing in the last decade, the affordability crisis persists, with county home prices now averaging 11.1 times annual earnings.

Echoing these concerns, a BBC report by Lucy Vladev and Malcolm Prior sheds light on the stark realities faced by rural communities across England. The report, focusing on the challenges of rising rural house prices, reveals that Households renting either privately or through a social housing via a registered social landlord or a local authority in rural and county areas has increased by 19% between 2011 and 2021. This is higher than anywhere else in the country, including London and England’s major cities. Highlighting the acute unaffordability in rural areas, the average house price in these counties stands at £309,000, positioning them as the most unaffordable regions outside of London.

The BBC article provides personal insights into the struggle for affordable housing in the countryside. In the Cotswolds, for instance, locals are increasingly priced out of the market by the influx of second homeowners and celebrities, forcing them into extended periods of renting or living in sub-standard conditions. The impact of holiday lets and second homes, as noted by Cara Loukes of the Gloucestershire Rural Community Council (GRCC), has exacerbated the shortage of long-term rental properties, pushing more individuals onto council waiting lists and in dire need of affordable housing solutions.

This exacerbating crisis calls for immediate action, as outlined by the County Council Network’s recommendations for policy reforms. The BBC's report further stresses the urgency of addressing rural housing challenges, with the County Councils Network advocating for a renewed government focus on social housing and a review of the right-to-buy policy to prevent the depletion of affordable rental properties.

By integrating strategies to enhance protections against speculative development and prioritising infrastructure alongside new housing, a more equitable housing system can emerge—one that acknowledges the distinct needs of both urban and rural dwellers. With both reports shedding light on the severity of the housing divide, the path forward must entail comprehensive planning and a commitment to delivering genuinely affordable homes across England's diverse landscapes.

You can download the full report from County Council Network’s website here.

The Rural Services Network launched it’s campaign Winning the Rural Vote earlier this year which set out a number of asks of the political parties in key policy areas.


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