Spotlight on Rural Housing - October 2023

A quarterly bulletin facilitated by your membership of the Rural Services Network and produced in partnership with the Rural Housing Alliance, highlighting a selection of current rural housing issues and opportunities

Homes England Rural Statement recognises higher rural development cost

At the beginning of October, Homes England published a statement aimed at highlighting the work they undertake in support of rural housing.

In their Rural Statement, they state:

“Homes England’s new Strategic Plan sets out our mission, “to drive regeneration and housing delivery to create high-quality homes and thriving places across England. At the heart of this is a commitment to work with places, including rural communities, to deliver on their housing and regeneration priorities.”

Within the statement, Homes England recognise the higher costs associated with developing affordable homes in rural areas. “We recognise that the costs and risks involved in housing development can often be disproportionately high in rural areas due to a combination of a lack of:

  • development opportunities, smaller sites, and limited capacity in the construction industry
  • that development finance can be difficult to access, particularly for smaller developers
  • that mortgage availability can be constrained where, for example, there are local eligibility and connection restrictions”

The agency state that in rural areas they have the flexibility to provide higher grant rates in light of higher costs associated with rural housing delivery, where the need can be evidenced. They are also able to provide the majority of grant funding upfront, at start on site, to improve viability and cashflow. They also state that:
“The renewed focus on social rent within the AHP should also benefit rural areas, where affordability is a particular issue.”

You can read the full statement at the following link: Homes England ‘Rural Housing Statement' - GOV.UK (

Unlocking the potential of Rural Exception Sites to deliver much needed affordable homes

A new study by University College London (UCL) and English Rural Housing Association illuminates the gravity of the affordable housing crisis facing many rural areas and offers a viable solution — Rural Exception Sites (RES).

English Rural write:

“The lack of affordable housing is often seen as an urban issue, but rural areas are equally affected. A slew of challenges, including conservation emphasis, limited amenities, environmental restrictions, and surging property prices, have constricted housing development in rural England. These challenges are further exacerbated by lower incomes and increasing urban migration to rural regions, making housing unaffordable for many local residents.

“Introduced as a national policy in 1991, RES were designed to deliver affordable homes on small rural plots that wouldn’t usually get planning permission. Over time, the policy has evolved to allow a small number of market-sale homes to facilitate the delivery of affordable units. Despite its potential, only 15% of rural authorities constructed any affordable homes on these sites in 2016 and 2017, with 37% of those built in Cornwall alone.”

The study identifies several roadblocks to the widespread adoption of RES, including a general lack of understanding, reluctance from local landowners, and opposition from local councils. However, the report argues many of these challenges can be overcome with better information. Key recommendations include:

  • Proactive Promotion: RES deserve a front-row seat in Local Plans.
  • Harnessing Collective Strength: The synergy of various stakeholders is paramount.
  • Igniting National Discourse: Central government policymakers need to be instrumental in a nationwide dialogue about the untapped potential of RES.

You can read the full report at the following link:
English Rural | Unlocking the “Magic Ingredient”: How Rural Exception Sites Could Be the Game-Changer for Affordable Housing in the English Countryside

New affordable homes on former school site named after local teacher

The development of 8 new energy-efficient, affordable homes was celebrated by the community of Stoke by Nayland in Suffolk on 29 September 2023.

The homes are built on land that used to be part of the grounds of the local Middle School and the name of the new development, Underwood Close, pays tribute to the legacy of Margaret Underwood who taught at the school for many years. In addition to the 8 new Hastoe homes, the site has retained 2 Suffolk County Council houses that used to be occupied by the school’s caretakers.

Councillor Rosie Emeny of Stoke by Nayland Parish Council said:

“Many of us have fond memories of our time at Stoke Middle School and the teachers who taught us, and one of those teachers that stood out was Margaret Underwood. She was not just an amazing teacher but someone who always looked out for the less fortunate and struggling pupil. She ensured that we all had the same opportunities and encouraged and worked alongside us to achieve our best potential. This support continued even when we were no longer pupils at the school and, for some of us, into our adulthood. She was an inspiration to so many and I felt it a fitting tribute to name this development Underwood Close as I know it was a place very dear to her heart. She would be so pleased to know many of her former pupils are now tenants.”

Hastoe’s 8 new affordable homes have increased the provision of social housing in the Parish by 17%. All 6 rented homes have been prioritised for people with a local connection to the Civil Parish of Stoke by Nayland such as those working in the Parish, those with close family in the area, or those who previously lived there but had to move out because of a lack of affordable housing. Over 70 tenancy bids were received for the 6 rented homes.

You can read more about the scheme at the following link:
Stoke by Nayland names new affordable homes after local school teacher - Hastoe Group

Passive Haus affordable homes in Wiltshire village get seal of approval

White Horse Housing Association’s £2.8 million passive housing project received an overwhelming thumbs up when it was shown off at an open day recently.

The ten new homes at Hook Hollow in Seend Cleeve, which are due to be completed later this year, have been built to rigorous ‘passive haus’ standards – which mean they will be incredibly energy efficient, resulting in relatively lower costs for the new residents in a time of high energy prices.

White Horse Housing Association (WHHA) is the development’s main funder but it has also been partly funded by Homes England’s Affordable Homes Programme, together with a contribution from Wiltshire Council. The project has been run in partnership with Seend Community Land and Asset Trust. The homes were designed by PKA Architects of Potterne and built by Winsley White Builders of Radstock.

The land was made available by the Seend Community Land and Asset Trust in partnership with Seend Parish Council and was identified after a review of many potential sites and a public consultation. The land was bought by White Horse Housing Association and then sold to the community land and asset trust for £1 before being leased back to White Horse Housing Association for 995 years.

The development has four two-bedroomed, one three-bedroomed and two one bedroom homes for rent as well as  two  three-beds and one two-bed for shared ownership sale. Both the rental and the shared ownership homes will be occupied by families and people with a local connection.

The homes are constructed from pre-cut timber frames which were then assembled, insulated with sustainable wool and sealed with airtight wind and waterproof tape before the exterior was cladded. Thanks to this, and the triple-glazed windows, the homes are completely draught proof and will need just two modern Quantum storage heaters and a heated towel rail inside.

Community land trust chairman Steve Vaux said:

“I know of so many couples that have left the parish to start families and would have preferred to stay here. The rural life is a lifestyle choice really but for those folks who want to start a family who can't afford the property, it's not a lifestyle choice, it's an economic choice to move out of the parish.”

You can read more at the following link:
Passive homes project at Seend (

‘Digital and Doorstep’ engagement for Cornwall tenants

Under the strategic theme of ‘Our Customers’ set out in their new Business Strategy and in line with their ‘Customer First’ value, Cornwall Rural Housing Association (CRHA) have introduced a ‘Digital & Doorstep’ concept. This builds on the Association’s already successful approach to engaging with customers in their homes as part of their annual programme of customer and home visits.

Customers can speak with CRHA directly through a user-friendly online portal, by email and also through other digital messaging platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to communicate.

The highest level of engagement that CRHA have with their customers now is through digital media platforms as opposed to other means.

The Association state:

“As well as providing a dynamic approach to gaining customer insight and feedback, by combining Digital & Doorstep approaches, we can provide a more holistic and customer-centric service experience, catering to a wide range of customer preferences and requirements. This approach can improve efficiency, accessibility, and overall customer satisfaction in the services we provide and help connect us on a daily basis with dispersed rural communities across Cornwall and on the Isles of Scilly.”

You can read the full CRHA Business Strategy at the following link:
FD Business Strategy Document.pdf (

Helping people with complex needs live in North Yorkshire

People with complex needs, including autism and learning disabilities, are moving back to North Yorkshire to be closer to their families following the opening of a £2.83M specialist housing scheme.

Broadacres worked with various partners, including the NHS, to complete work on a state-of-the-art seven-bungalow development in Brough St Giles, near Catterick.

Six of the new two-bedroom homes have been allocated to people with a connection to the area, with a further bungalow for staff from Stokesley-based Positive Individual Proactive Support (PIPS) to provide 24-hour-a-day care and support.

More than £2 million of the funding for the project was secured by the local NHS clinical commissioning group, with contributions from Broadacres making up the difference.

Gail Teasdale, Chief Executive of Broadacres, said:

“We’re delighted to have completed work on this unique development which enables people from our area to move back into the community and be closer to their family, friends, and other support networks and it’s a great example of what can be achieved when partners come together to reach a common goal.”

Amanda Bloor, NHS Humber and North Yorkshire ICB Chief Operating Officer, said:

“It’s fantastic to see how every aspect of the design of these homes takes into consideration the complex needs of those who will live there. It’s been a pleasure to have been involved from the very start and I’d like to thank Broadacres, NHS England and other partners for helping to turn the vision we had in 2018 into a reality.”

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for health and adult services, Cllr Michael Harrison, said:

“Helping support people to live a healthy, independent and active life in the community is a strategic aim for North Yorkshire Council and developments like this are to be welcomed.”

Shropshire village homes under construction