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Plugging the rural housing gap

  • by JW

“While visitors come and go, locals need homes. Ensuring that the supply of affordable housing is increased, and secured long term, must be the primary goal of any housing and planning reforms.”


The Rural Services Network reposts key pieces from the media as well as commissioning original research – and below are those focussing on the rural housing crisis:



The Guardian has recorded their views on second homes and urge main homes to be put first

An editorial piece in the newspaper, available at this link, sets out some of the difficulties experienced by a changing housing market over the last year.

For a while last year it looked as though the widening of inequalities of all kinds, which has been one of the hallmarks of the pandemic, might not extend to housing. Demand for short-term and holiday lets on platforms such as Airbnb collapsed. While this was alarming for landlords, it looked as though more property could become available for long-term residential use…

Since this was not the kind of levelling up that ministers had in mind, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, intervened. A stamp duty holiday was introduced and then extended, to pump up prices. A new version of help to buy was launched. The predictable result has now arrived, in the shape of a pandemic-driven property boom. Two weeks ago, the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, described the UK’s housing market as being “on fire”. Prices are rising at an average rate of 14.2% annually in rural locations, and 7% in cities…

Demand for second and holiday homes is not the only reason why the housing market in such places increasingly resembles a hot-air balloon, rather than a ladder. Well-off city dwellers are more likely than any other group to have worked from home over the past year. Some are now choosing to move house, either for a change of scene or more space.

But demand for holiday homes is a key factor driving price rises, and forcing local people to vacate desirable areas such as south-western seaside towns and villages so that richer visitors can take their places, either as owners or short-term renters. In Cornwall last month, there were 10,290 active Airbnb listings, but just 62 properties to rent on the housing website Rightmove across the whole county…

There are economic as well as environmental reasons to support an expansion of domestic tourism. But while visitors come and go, locals need homes. Ensuring that the supply of affordable housing is increased, and secured long term, must be the primary goal of any housing and planning reforms. The alternative is increasing injustice and division.

Housing inequalities are growing while more properties are converted to holiday use – Rural Services Network



The FT reports that large areas of South Downs National Park are set to be developed into new towns in order to meet Boris Johnson’s housebuilding targets of 300,000 a year, with a new formula to determine how these are distributed and an overhaul of planning laws to make it easier for developers to overcome opposition

The paper suggests that the Conservatives’ recent defeat in the Chesham and Amersham by-election is partly in response.

James MacCleary, leader of the district council in the East Sussex County town of Lewes commented: “Concerns over the government’s attitude to rural areas and the protection of the countryside played a key role in that election. It’s obviously a warning shot for other Conservative seats.”

The article notes that the concentration of proposed new housing in the relatively prosperous south-east of the country, according to official statistics, raises issues for the government’s “levelling-up” programme for the north and midlands.

Full article:

The FT – Battles loom as housing developers eye rural England
* Please be aware a Financial Times subscription is required in order to access the full article

Battles loom as housing developers eye rural England – Rural Services Network



Despite numerous consultations, announcements, funding packages, targets and interventions by successive Governments the housing gap remains – with the number of households [demand] outstripping the houses built [supply]. While rural places are often viewed as idyllic places to live, work and enjoy they face particular issues around affordability, accessibility and contain more second / holiday homes than their urban counterparts. How many homes do we need, and what more can be done to provide the rural homes people require? Jessica Sellick investigates…

How can we provide more homes in the countryside without ruining it? A significant amount of land in public ownership is not needed to deliver public services and similarly, church/faith, charitable and private landowners may also have assets that could be harnessed to support the delivery of more affordable homes in rural places. While some organisations advocate for new rural settlements, others suggest we should utilise brownfield and protect the greenbelt. Rather than thinking on a settlement by settlement basis, how can we take account of the functionality and linkages between rural places? 

Finding a place to call ‘home’: what more can be done to plug the rural housing gap? – Rural Services Network



How affordable rural homes change lives and communities (Cotswold focus) – Rural Services Network

The Rural Housing Alliance ask the Government to focus on rural housing – Rural Services Network

Homes for Heroes: huge lack of affordable homes for rural key workers – Rural Services Network

Unused high street retail spaces could deliver 25,000 new homes – Rural Services Network


The availability of affordable housing is a key issue for the Rural Services Network, and part of its Revitalising Rural campaign. You can view our asks of Government for affordable housing at this link: