A recent study carried out by Cambridge Centre for Housing & Planning Research (CCHPR) on behalf of the Commission for Rural Communities has looked at a number of factors affecting people living in rented properties (both social & private) to improve understanding of likely future changes in the housing market in rural areas.

 Findings of the report make for uncomfortable reading with homes in rural areas being substantially more likely to fail to meet the decent homes standard especially in the private rented sector. This is compounded by the higher rates of thermal inefficiency found in rural properties which with rising fuel prices and falling income and benefit levels raises real concerns about fuel poverty.

 Furthermore the reduction of Housing Benefit for working age social tenants who underoccupy  their homes will impact disproportionately on rural areas. The report highlights several reasons for this:

  1. A higher proportion of rural households underoccupy because there is a national shortage of one-bedroom properties and typically there are fewer flats in villages.
  2. Social landlords (housing associations) accommodate people in homes that they can grow into, rather than having to move as their family grows.
  3. Relocation of households to more suitably sized housing is harder in rural areas because of the limited stock available locally and distances that are involved in moves.   

 The new affordable rent tenure permits housing associations to charge up to 80% of market rents and also to convert a proportion of re-lets to this rate. The aim of this is to help pay for the costs of building new properties since public subsidy is now much reduced. The report highlights that housing in attractive villages could command a high rent, and that support for affordable rural housing could be hard to sustain if the housing is not seen to be affordable on local incomes.

 All in all, this report paints a gloomy picture for people living in or seeking rented properties across our rural communities. However, RCCE’s Rural Housing Enabler Project continues to work with local authorities, housing associations and parish councils to address the shortage of affordable housing for local people and build a sustainable future for our smaller, rural villages.

 The full report is available for free download at http://www.defra.gov.uk/crc/?page_id=17127&preview=true