CLA stresses importance of rural communities, such as Harpenden and Wheathampstead, amid the current housing crisis

Villages and hamlets need not to be overlooked in the ongoing housing crisis debate

Villages and hamlets need not to be overlooked in the ongoing housing crisis debate - Credit: Archant

Countryside needs consideration if rural housing crisis is to be tackled, says the Country Land and Business Association.

The needs of rural communities have to be given careful consideration by Government if it is to successfully tackle the housing crisis, the CLA has said.

The call was made as peers continue to debate amendments to the Housing and Planning Bill this week – including those supported by the organisation on starter homes and the extension of Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants.

CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood said: “We need a range of new homes, including affordable homes, if we are to ensure our rural communities are to be sustained.

“To do this, it is vitally important Ministers recognise that, due to the nature of rural areas, national policies can and do affect rural communities in different ways to urban areas.

“In order to retain and deliver homes that are desperately needed in rural areas, Government must acknowledge these differences and address rural-specific needs within the Bill itself instead of assuming they will slip in to the accompanying guidance or regulation.”

Mr Underwood said it was important to back the Government’s ambition to boost homeownership, but its Starter Homes initiative would put the delivery of homes in rural areas at risk.

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“Across the country landowners are willing to make potential housing land available at considerable undervalue in order to provide homes for local people in perpetuity,” he said. “However the proposal to allow Starter Homes on rural exception sites offers little incentive for this to continue, as properties built on these sites can then be sold on the open market after only five years.

“Rural areas need a variety of housing types, tenures and sizes which the Starter Homes policy creates a barrier to achieving.”

With the shortage of affordable homes often acute in small settlements, Mr Underwood said it was important specific exemptions were put in place so the Right to Buy scheme for Housing Association tenants did not exacerbate the problem.

“Rural areas already have fewer affordable properties than urban areas thanks in part to previous incarnations of the Right to Buy, with the average rural house price now over £40,000 more expensive than its urban counterpart,” he added.

“Exceptions must be made to ensure communities with a population of 3,000 or fewer are exempt from the extension of the policy. Settlements of 10,000 or fewer should also have the option to seek approval for exemption.

“Similarly, Ministers are yet to indicate where properties replacing those sold under the Right to Buy will be built. Government must be clear that any replacement property is built in the same area.”