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January 2015
A quarterly bulletin facilitated by your membership of the Rural Services Network and produced in partnership with the Rural Housing Alliance, highlighting a selection of current rural housing issues and opportunities.
A focus for rural housing
New National Guide for Parish Councils launched
The updated version of the practical guide to affordable housing, produced in partnership between the Rural Housing Alliance and RSN, was published in December and is available via this link.  First produced in 2010, the guide has proved a great way to allow Parish Councils to begin to understand how they can get much needed affordable homes built in the places they want.  The new guide has proved incredibly popular with hard copies distributed to those County Associations of Local Councils who have requested them together with rural housing enablers, housing providers and others across rural England.
In the foreward to the guide HRH The Princess Royal, Patron of English Rural Housing Association, says: “Small scale affordable rural housing developments help to rebalance communities, keeping families together whilst providing a boost for local services. Parish and town councils are a driving force for change and a key partner in delivering affordable homes for local people.”
In support of the guide, Peter Moore, Chair of the Rural Housing Alliance and Chief Executive of Cornwall Rural Housing Association, says: “The importance of this problem should not be underestimated. This is not a new crisis, but one that continues to get worse. Many rural communities are approaching a watershed moment where, if nothing is done, longstanding local families, businesses and cultures will disappear, damaging the very way of life that makes our villages so appealing.  Maintaining a balance of income earners, household types and age groups is crucial to keeping villages vibrant and active. Developments of affordable rural homes help to achieve this balance and diversity.”

Section 106 threshold to be challenged
The decision by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to introduce a 10-unit threshold for Section 106 affordable housing contributions is to be challenged.  The application for Judicial Review made by West Berkshire Council and Reading Borough Council has been formally supported by the Rural Services Network.  The decision will lead to less affordable homes being delivered in small settlements and will lead to conflict between local and national policy where Local Plans have policies requiring new schemes to contribute towards an affordable housing target.  One Neighbourhood Plan coordinator said: “Am I now supposed to write a Neighbourhood Plan policy which accords with Local Plan policy or one which accords with national policy?  I cannot do both.” In writing to the minister, Brandon Lewis, on this issue late in 2014, RSN chief executive Graham Biggs said:  "The 10-home threshold would be nothing short of ruinous for the provision of affordable housing in rural areas."  Previously, 66% of affordable homes in rural areas have come through Section 106 Agreements.  “Without an obligation to provide any affordable homes, this supply will virtually dry up,” Mr. Biggs added.

Rural Manifesto for the 2015 General Election
The Rural Services Manifesto has been published and is available via this link.  Ahead of the 2015 General Election, the Manifesto makes the rural case across a range of topics, including housing.  Hot topics include section 106 thresholds, right-to-buy, the additional costs associated with rural development and the importance of local connection in allocating rural affordable homes.

Defra threat to remove ACRE funding
A petition against proposals to withdraw funding from England’s 38 rural community councils is growing by 1000 names every day. The e-petition was set up in January by Janice Banks, chief executive of Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), after it emerged that Defra funding could be withdrawn. ACRE is the national body for the 38 rural community councils which lead, support and enable rural community initiatives, reaching 50,000 grassroots organisations. ACRE warned that 90 years of dedicated support for 11,000 rural communities could be jeopardised if the cuts go ahead. The petition runs until 30 March 2015 and RSN are urging as many people as possible to sign.  To see the petition follow this link.

Rural Housing Enablers will be hit if ACRE funding is removed
Tessa O’Sullivan, Rural Housing Enabler with Action with Communities in Rural Kent
Defra provides funding to the ACRE Network of Rural Community Councils to help assess the impact of public policies in rural areas.  This includes investing in work that helps provide solutions to local issues – e.g. a lack of affordable housing. Government is now considering cutting these funds.
These cuts if implemented will present a further challenge to the already precarious funding of RHE posts across the country and therefore to the provision of rural affordable housing.  There is no doubt that the housing is needed; it is proved time after time by the housing needs surveys that I and colleagues across the country undertake.  These local needs affordable housing schemes require substantial preliminary work to get them of the ground and their success depends largely upon the support of the local community.  Building on exception sites in the countryside is a sensitive issue that has to be handled carefully and it tends to be a slower process than urban development. The RHE’s role is key to all these aspects of delivery and more.

Residents speak out on need for rural homes in Hampshire
The Hampshire Alliance for Rural Affordable Housing (HARAH) has published a booklet to mark the completion of a project researching the stories of Hampshire families living in rural affordable homes.
Aimed at promoting grass-roots support for rural affordable homes, A home for where the heart is includes moving, first-hand accounts from rural Hampshire residents who explain what their affordable home means to them and the contribution they make to their village.
Although the primary aim of the booklet is to encourage more parish councils and rural residents in Hampshire to support a scheme in their area, it provides a format that can be easily tailored by other housing providers to tackle stigma and resistance to affordable homes in the communities they work with.
An electronic copy can be downloaded from the HARAH website via this link.  Printed copies can be obtained free of charge from Action Hampshire by emailing or phoning 01962 847362.

Only one in 25 believes general election will have a positive impact on rural communities
The UK public have little faith in Westminster to deliver positive change for people living in rural communities, according to a YouGov survey published on 13 January by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and rural housing association Hastoe.  Nearly 70 per cent of the public do not think that politicians care about affordable housing in rural areas.
Just 4 per cent, or one in 25, think that May’s general election will have a positive effect on people living in rural communities; almost half of the 2,110 respondents thought that the election would have no impact.
The survey also reinforced recent government and industry research suggesting a dearth of affordable homes in rural areas and that, on average, rural housing costs 11 times annual rural wages. 59 per cent of respondents who lived in rural areas stated that there was a lack of affordable homes in their communities. Furthermore, two thirds of rural-based respondents, and two thirds of all respondents, did not think that politicians care about the issue of providing affordable housing in rural areas.

Dream becomes reality through CLT scheme in South Somerset
A newly built affordable housing scheme for local people at Minchingtons Close in Norton-sub-Hamdon has been welcomed by South Somerset District Council.
Over a number of years, South Somerset District Council, Yarlington Housing Group and the Parish Council have worked to help ensure that the village is not a place where only the minority can afford to live and bring up their families. This also led to the establishment of a Community Land Trust (CLT) made up of local residents, which became the driving force behind the schemes success.
Of the ten new homes built at Minchingtons Close in the village, eight homes have been let on affordable rents and two have been sold under shared ownership. The homes have been allocated to people with a local connection to the village and surrounding parishes.
South Somerset District Council enabled the Community Land Trust to establish and provided support to get the scheme through the planning and housing systems. The Council’s Area North Committee also provided funds of £5,000 for legal fees.

Sustain Consortium – working with vulnerable people in rural Shropshire
Vicki Coleman, Shropshire Housing Group
In a deeply rural area like Shropshire, finding a solution to provide housing support for a range of clients with very differing needs is a challenge. Previously providers had tended to deliver services within specific localities and using small specialist providers. This, in turn, made services under the Supporting People provision expensive to run for the local authority.
The three largest social landlords in Shropshire founded the SUSTAIN consortium. Severnside Housing, Shropshire Housing Group and Shropshire Towns and Rural Housing felt it was important to try to hold onto the skills and local knowledge that they had developed over the years, and to maintain a diversity of supply that valued and protected local service providers. For this reason other specialist providers were invited to join SUSTAIN to work together to create coherent county-wide offers.
The service includes floating support, young person’s foyer, refuges and other specialist services such as support for people with physical disabilities and spinal injuries. We are also working together to develop a county wide approach to housing for older people.

£1 million Affordable Housing Fund for Eden
Eden District Council has established a £1million fund to deliver innovative affordable housing in its area. Eden is on the edge of the Lake District National Park and is the largest district council in England by area as well as being the most sparsely populated.
The Fund is building on the Council’s existing work to address the ever increasing demand for affordable housing in the District where the lower quartile house price are £145,000, 10 times the lower quartile household income of £14k.
The area’s existing supply of affordable homes is largely provided by housing associations and delivered through Choice Based Lettings; but this still leaves the District with an unmet need for affordable housing.
Eden District Council’s Housing Portfolio Holder, Councillor Lesley Grisedale, said: “We have to innovate to succeed. This means building low cost energy efficient housing. This new £1 million Fund will help us to take more control over the development process for affordable housing by influencing the size and type of properties that are delivered as well as their location.”
The funding is offered as a loan, at a low interest rate over a 25 year term with loan repayments being reinvested in the Fund for future bidding rounds.  For further information please contact

Royal approval for partnership with Water Company
Pandan Close, West Hanningfield received a royal stamp of approval in January when His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales helped residents celebrate the joint venture between Hastoe Housing Association and Essex & Suffolk Water that made their homes possible.
HRH was shown around the development of homes, which incorporate traditional Essex materials, colours and traditional door and window patterns, and were designed to meet high environmental standards, including water efficient features and ground source heat pumps.
Residents gathered to watch and chatted with HRH as he planted a D'Arcy Spice tree – a local variety of apple tree, within the development to mark the occasion. The Prince went on to meet two local residents in their home to hear about their time living in West Hanningfield, and finally to the local Village Hall, where he spent time chatting to children from the local primary school and unveiled a plaque to commemorate his visit.

Passiv Haus scheme coming to Warwickshire
Craig Felts, Midlands Rural Housing
Warwickshire Rural Housing Association is embarking upon an exciting project to deliver the first rural Passiv Haus development in the County. Working closely with partners, the Association is intending to build 14 local needs homes in the village of Wootton Wawen near Stratford upon Avon.  The scheme will include a number of bungalows.  They will be built with very high levels of insulation, virtually no air leakage and will require very little space heating.  This will result in significant saving on utility costs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  Affordable warmth and measures to tackle climate change are high on the agenda for Stratford District Council’s Corporate strategy, with consideration being given to the provision of top up finance in addition to funding already secured via the Homes and Communities Agency.
The development will be located in a high landscape value area, and will be carefully designed to fit in with the environment.  Should the proposals proceed as anticipated, the development will commence sometime during 2016.
For more information please contact

Government consults on starter homes scheme
The government has stated it is determined that more people have the opportunity to buy their own home, and is keen to ensure first time buyers find it easier to take their first steps onto the property ladder. The Prime Minister announced the Starter Homes scheme to do more to help first time buyers. This reform is intended to “free up the planning system to help to provide more low cost, high quality starter homes for first time buyers – without burdening the tax payer.” The government sees this as an ambitious package which it cannot provide alone. The government states that it “needs to work closely with developers, local authorities and land owners to enable 100,000 starter homes to be built over the next 5 years so that more young people can buy their own home.” This consultation sets out the government’s Starter Homes proposals and seeks views about the proposed planning policy change and its implementation. This consultation closes on 9 February 2015 and can be accessed via this link.

Housing Stock Transfer Fund available
Since November 2013, tenants living in council housing have had a right to request that the management of their homes be transferred to a housing association - and that the council cooperate in that process. From July 2014, tenant groups wanting to exercise this Right to Transfer have been able to bid for a share of a £100 million fund to help that process, with the money becoming available from April 2015. The £100 million fund is also available for councils wishing to transfer their stock, with proposals that provide good value for money and have the support of residents. A Guidance Manual has been published which sets out how local authorities and tenant groups can apply to transfer local authority housing to a different landlord. As part of this, local authorities and tenant groups can apply for funding towards writing off debt, with up to £100 million available in 2015 to 2016. Applications to transfer stock under the terms of this manual that seek support for overhanging debt write-off must be made on the basis that transfer will complete by 31 March 2016.  Further information is available here.

Rent to Buy scheme
Under the scheme, launched in September 2014, housing associations and other providers can bid for a share of £400 million in low-cost loans to build up to 10,000 new homes across the country to be built from 2015 to 2018 - they will mainly consist of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments.
Landlords must then make the homes available for rent at below-market rates for a minimum of 7 years. This fixed period is intended to give tenants the opportunity to save up for a deposit and get ready to buy their own home.
At the end of the period, the tenant will have first refusal to buy the property – alternatively they may choose to move out and buy a different property, or rent another property either privately or with the housing association.
If the home is sold, the housing association will then have the option to use any returns on their investment to build more affordable homes in the area. Alternatively, they will still have a home, which they can look to rent at an affordable rate to another tenant who needs help to buy.
Further information is available via this link.
Forward to Friend
 Joint Working 

The Chartered Institute of Housing and RSN aim to work in partnership to deliver more support for our members working in rural housing delivery and management. Our first joint survey of members highlighted again the great difference that local people can make in the ability to deliver more rural housing. As a response to that, we developed a short focused guide with top tips and help for professionals on how to work effectively with rural communities. This is available by following this link. Watch this space for more information on further joint working with CIH.
 Rural Alliance Pledge 

Members of the Rural Housing Alliance signed up to the Rural Pledge in March 2011.  Launched with the National Housing Federation this pledge remains highly relevant and contains the following commitments:
•    Work closely with the local community and Parish Council to find the right site
•    Always give qualifying local people in housing need first priority for every home
•    Ensure that affordable homes always remain affordable
•    Build sensitively designed, high quality homes to high environmental standards
•    Provide good quality and locally sensitive management services to our residents
•    Always respond positively to the local community.
At the inaugural National Rural Housing conference in February 2014 Peter Moore, chair of the Rural Housing Alliance, reaffirmed Alliance members’ ongoing commitment to this Pledge.  A copy of the Pledge can be viewed by following this link.
 Influence in Westminster 

The Rural Services APPG supported by RSN provides an excellent opportunity to put issues of the moment in front of MPs in the heart of Westminster and to seek to influence national debate.  In October 2014 the APPG focused solely on rural housing – specifically the importance of section 106 sites and local connection criteria.  If you have any views on key topics which should be covered in future APPGs please contact Andy Dean.
 Keep calm and Join Up! 

RSN exists to enable the issues facing the rural areas of England to be identified, information and good practice to be shared and government to be challenged to address the needs and build on the opportunities which abound in rural areas.
If you know a rural housing organisation that would benefit from membership, please ask them to consider joining us.  RSN is a solely rural focussed organisation with an electronic distribution network in excess of 40,000 individuals.  We reach right across all the rural areas of England and provide a sustained and respected voice for rural areas at national level.  Anyone who wants to talk to us about our role and services in relation to rural housing should contact Andy Dean to find out more.
If you are a small housing organisation operating in rural England, you can have access to all the services of RSN for an annual subscription of just £250 plus VAT.  RSN exists to share information, promote good practice and represent the voice of rural England at a national level.  Check out the website for more information or contact Andy Dean to join up.
 Housing Observatory 

Balancing the housing market, improving the quality of housing stock, and enabling the provision of affordable housing are all key issues which concern rural local authorities.  These are often topical issues and the Housing section of the Observatory considers what the data available can tell us about the position in rural communities, and what challenges rural communities might face in the future.
For analysis and comment on key rural housing issues, click here.
 Spotlight Archive 

For an archive of the quarterly Rural Housing Spotlight newsletters which provides a medium for members to channel their concerns, highlight good practice and share thoughts on housing issues in their rural communities click here.
 Everything Housing 

We have developed a ‘hot topic’ section of our website, which provides a gathering of all rural housing information and displays it all in one place. This area provides the latest updates in our Rural Housing Service, our latest housing news articles, housing opinions - which includes case studies and best practice and housing in depth - including latest housing analysis we have produced.
To view the housing hot topic section click here
 Contact Details 

Andy Dean
Housing and External Funding
07872 373191
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