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‘Handful’ of affordable homes keep rural communities alive

More affordable housing is needed in rural areas to keep vital village facilities open, campaigners have warned.

A new report by the National Housing Federation has claimed a ‘handful of high quality and affordable homes’ could transform rural communities, which are being hit by the closure of local services, like schools, post offices and pubs.

According to the report, 52 rural schools have shut their doors in the last five years and 81 post offices have closed since 2011.

More than 1,365 pubs have closed since March 2013, which is the equivalent of seven a week.

The report highlights the lack of new affordable housing, which is driving many young families and working-age people out of the countryside and highlights several examples where the intervention of a housing association has helped keep community facilities open.

The Bernicia Housing Group was able to keep the primary school on Holy Island open after it built just four new affordable homes.

The report states there had been a sharp increase in house prices on the island, which made home ownership and renting difficult for local people.

‘It was quickly realised that by building four three-bedroom affordable homes and allocating these to families with local connections, the school would be able to stay open and local businesses would get the staff they needed,’ the report states.

‘This would also help alleviate the issue of the island’s tidal nature, which makes it inaccessible twice a day.’

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne Community Development Trust, Homes and Communities Agency, Tudor Trust, Bernicia Housing Group and the local council all came together and contributed nearly £750,000 to the project.

The families moved into the affordable homes in January 2010, which providing the lifeline needed for the primary school to remain open.

The report also cites the example of how South Shropshire Housing Association’s delivery of vital new housing in the small village of Neenton was instrumental in reviving The Pheasant pub, which had been vacant.

The village was in desperate need of new homes for local people while the run-down pub, which was falling further into decay, was one of only two community buildings left standing in the area.

A survey of residents had shown a strong local desire for the pub to reopen, but also highlighted a feeling that additional housing would help secure a future for the village.

Empowered by this support, South Shropshire Housing Association began working closely with local people on a community-led project to build seven new homes for sale and shared ownership.

The profits from the project helped fund the acquisition and refurbishment of The Pheasant. The brand new family homes were completed in 2015 and The Pheasant re-opened in 2014.

The pub features a brand new community space and according to the report is the ‘perfect example of community-led working’, having not only provided new homes for local people but also re-established an important local facility.

‘Make no mistake, rural life as we know it, is disappearing fast,’ said National Housing Federation chief executive, David Orr.

‘A lack of truly affordable housing is putting a huge strain on rural economies, populations and vital communities services – schools are closing their doors forever to pupils, and pubs are serving their last-ever orders to locals.

‘Housing associations are intervening to stem the tide. They are proving that just a handful of high-quality and affordable new homes can transform rural communities, and ensure that our villages and market towns can thrive for generations to come.’

  • Read the report here.

 

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