Rural Housing Week (6th to 12th July) provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the problems faced by many people and households in rural Bedfordshire in finding suitable local housing that is affordable for them.
As the Rural Housing Alliance says, “affordable housing is fundamental to the economic and social wellbeing of rural England”. Yet in Bedfordshire, as with all rural areas, there is a real shortage.
Just in the 25 parishes where BRCC has carried out Housing Needs Surveys over the past few years, we have identified a need for nearly 300 additional affordable homes (for rent or shared ownership) for local people in rural Bedfordshire. Typical households in need are young adults still living with their parents; growing families needing more living space; or older people seeking to downsize, but with no suitable and affordable properties available locally. However, over the last 5 years housing on rural exception sites (which is made available to local people in the first instance) has been built in Bedfordshire at a rate of only around 10 units per year.
Meanwhile, housing in Bedfordshire villages is generally more expensive than in urban areas, with little available for under £150,000. Levels of both private and social rented housing are lower than in urban areas, and the government’s proposed Right to Buy extension will deplete this stock still further (see Mark Shucksmith’s analysis here). Social and affordable rented housing that is not on rural exception sites is allocated on the basis of level of housing need, rather than living locally – with demand greatly outstripping supply, those households not in the highest priority categories are unlikely to be able to access it.
One result of this shortage of affordable housing is that young adults are unable to stay in the villages in which they grew up, and only more affluent people are able to move in. Most villages saw a striking decrease in the 25-44 age group in just 10 years between 2001 and 2011, with a corresponding growth in those aged 45+.
For more affordable housing to be built to meet local needs, more rural exception sites need to be brought forward by Housing Associations and willing landowners, in close liaison with Parish Councils wishing to meet the current and future needs of their parishioners.
For further information on our rural housing service, please contact Jemma McLean at email@example.com or on 01234 834932.
(Pictured: a rural exception site in Caddington)