A spotlight of our work focussing on rural housing


JUNE 2013
A quarterly bulletin facilitated by your membership of the Rural Services Network highlighting a selection of current rural housing issues and opportunities

A focus for rural housing

Housing is consistently rated as one of the top challenges facing rural communities across the country.  The Rural Services Network is keen to provide an opportunity for its members to channel their concerns, highlight good practice and share thoughts on this critical area.  This inaugural Rural Housing Spotlight is one mechanism for doing just that.  We are keen to receive your feedback and any contributions from members to future editions will be gratefully received.  The deadline for the September Spotlight will be the end of August.  Please contact Andy Dean to discuss any proposals or feedback you may have.

Clear Evidence Welcomed in the Rural Midlands
The HCA has welcomed the development of pooled information on need and pipeline provision from the Rural Network East Midlands.  Midlands Rural Housing has pulled together information from registered providers, Rural Housing Enablers and local authorities to clearly demonstrate the need for rural housing from an East Midlands perspective and to illustrate the work that is going on to meet that need. Based on existing Housing Needs Surveys, over 1,500 homes are currently required across the rural East Midlands.  350 homes are scheduled for delivery by April 2015.  A further 350 homes could be delivered by that time if funding were secured and over 800 additional homes will still be needed.  Sharing housing need information has enabled the group to take their case to strategists, policy makers and funders in a combined effort to influence thinking and future funding decisions.  The HCA, ministerial advisors and other policy makers have asked for regular updates of this evidence to inform future discussions.
Rural Network East Midlands is working on an action plan to educate stakeholders, share knowledge, bring partners together and establish new delivery mechanisms to help to meet the rural housing needs identified.  This is being facilitated by Midlands Rural Housing who are also pulling together a West Midlands equivalent which will enable a clear view of rural housing needs across the Midlands to be established.
Richard Mugglestone of Midlands Rural Housing said “It now seems more important than ever that we are making the case for a rural focus of investment, strategy and policy at a regional and national level. This evidence has already been welcomed by HCA regional leads, national policy leads as well as ministerial advisors. If the RNEM rural housing group makes a strong case for the work that is ongoing and necessary we will hopefully positively influence the direction of resources towards rural housing in the area.”
For more information please contact richard.mugglestone@midlandsrh.org.uk

Are you backing community-led housing?
Catherine Harrington of the National CLT Network explains:
“The political spotlight is on community-led activity: the Localism Act and the Community Rights offer opportunities for communities to take over assets, manage public services and bring forward development.  At the same time and across the country, the Community Land Trust movement is expanding rapidly. There are now 150 CLTs in England, community-based organisations run by local volunteers, which are developing permanently affordable homes held in trust for local people. So if you’re not thinking about community-led housing yet, you should be.”
The CLT model is gaining recognition amongst communities, funders and public authorities. The completion of a number of inspirational and exemplary CLT projects provides the necessary proof of concept. It also supplies the vital ingredients of enthusiasm and energy to inspire communities and create a surge in more CLT projects nationwide.
To find out more about this exciting movement there is one date that should be circled in your calendar. The National CLT Network is delighted to invite you to the CLT Annual Conference 2013, to be held in Birmingham on 12 June. This is the only national event dedicated to CLTs and promises to be a hot-bed of shared ideas, inspiration and innovation. There are a few free places remaining for CLT volunteers but they are going fast - don't miss out!  There are also reduced rates now available for local authorities - £179 (from £260). Book your place here.
For more information on the National CLT Network and the support it can offer you, contact catherine.harrington@housing.org.uk, www.communitylandtrusts.org.uk

Local allocations – a fine balance
Martin Collett, Operations Director, English Rural Housing Association
For those of us working in rural communities to develop affordable homes for local people, the very first question that the parish council and community will ask is ‘who will qualify for the homes and can you guarantee that local people will be given priority’.  The planning process typically outlines what qualifies as local and legally sets in stone the principles that rural communities most want to secure when permission is granted.
The Localism Act 2011, through its revision of how local authorities can now maintain housing registers and utilise allocations schemes, has inadvertently enabled these principles to be compromised.  Less rurally minded authorities can now put in place allocations schemes that take no account of housing challenges facing rural communities, where living costs are typically higher and affordable housing rarer.  In some areas rural households who would have ordinarily used access to the local authority housing list to secure a home in the community where they live, work and enjoy family networks, are now finding themselves blocked from this list due to their perceived lack of need; raising concerns amongst local people, parish councils and landowners, all of whom are critical to delivering new homes.
The good news is that not all local authorities are taking a one size fits all approach, having used the true spirit of the Localism Act and undertaken meaningful consultation to set in place allocations schemes reflecting the varying needs of urban and rural communities.  In contrast though, where this is not the case, our experience is that rural interest groups and parish councils are now starting to challenge local authority allocations schemes, as any negative impact on rural communities becomes more apparent.
As a specialist rural housing association, our reputation is hinged on successfully balancing housing need and needs of the local community.  Our allocations policy reflects this, paying due regard to the approach of local authority partners, but remaining true to our own independent mission and objectives.  The full consequences of these changes are yet to be seen, but those who have got it right are likely to see the continued support of local communities for the development of affordable rural homes, investment from partner housing associations and all the benefits that these bring to the wider rural community.

All Party Parliamentary Group – influence in Westminster
RSN runs an APPG for rural services.  This 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.  RSN has committed to focussing one of these APPG meetings on rural housing in the autumn of 2013.  We are very keen to hear from you if you have a strong view about the specific issue which we should focus on at this session and if you would like to take part.  Your views would be very welcome.
Please contact Andy Dean for more information.

Saving a Domesday village?
Neenton is a small historic Shropshire village dating back to the Domesday Book with a current population of 150 people.  English Heritage commented that "There is a lack of any economic activity in the village and the deterioration of recent years is not expected to stop".  The village has lost all public space and facilities, (except for a Church itself close to closure), there is no village hall, shop, school, or post office and the Pheasant Inn closed in 2006.
A ground breaking partnership between Shropshire Council, Shropshire Housing Group and Neenton Community Society is aiming to realise the community’s vision and determination to turn this situation around.  The semi-derelict Pheasant Inn public house and adjoining land will be acquired, the Inn restored and expanded to include a Community Room. It will be re-opening as a community-owned facility funded by a development of sustainable open market and affordable homes.  £450,000 from the five open market properties will be recycled back into the Inn’s refurbishment and expansion.
For the ambition to be realised, the support of the Council has been vital.  Shropshire Council’s adopted Core Strategy allows communities to “opt in” to development status and this has enabled local discussions that resulted in Neenton as a community, accepting some open market housing into the village.  This will also enable the community to benefit from Community Infrastructure Levy payments.
The Community Society recognises the fundamental help given by the HCA in helping to grant fund this project, without the funding this scheme would not come forward.  John Pickup, Chair of the group, says “For a village of just 150 adults and children, this project is ambitious.  It aims not just to restore a pub, but to launch the regeneration of a rural community in social, economic and environmental terms, based on a vision of self-sufficiency and on assets and facilities that everyone in the village can collectively own and control.”
The project will create seven jobs, increase the housing stock of the village by around 15%, bring spend upwards of £250,000 p.a. into the area and, if successful, has the potential to generate substantial surpluses for re-investment in the regeneration of the community.
Jake Berriman, incoming Chief Executive at Shropshire Housing Group, is rightly proud of the Group’s efforts: “Being based in the community and having its business driven by the ethos of working with communities to meet their needs, Shropshire Housing Group is supporting both local housing and other social objectives, sustaining places and actively playing our part to keep villages alive.”

Housing crucial to Rural Community Councils
Martin Hawkins, Housing, Transport & Services Officer, ACRE
Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) is the national umbrella body for 38 Rural Community Councils (RCCs), charities that support rural communities across a wide range of activities including helping them understand and address their housing needs.
Developing suitable housing is one of the crucial issues that influences the economic and social strength of rural communities, and is a major contributor to long-term sustainability. Through ACRE’s national advocacy with Government and other bodies and our members’ direct work with communities, we have a long history of supporting people in rural areas solve their housing needs and develop a range of suitable new and usually affordable homes.. ACRE is currently working with the Homes and Communities Agency on a practical guide about rural housing aimed at communities for publication later this summer.
Critical to this are rural housing enablers (RHEs) and community development workers that work with communities and others, such as landowners and housing providers, to help bring forward housing schemes. Many Rural Community Councils have a specialist RHE in post with others employed by bodies including local authorities - but posts are consistently under threat because of cost cutting by funders.
A particular strength of our members is their ability to work with often disparate views regarding the prospect of new housing within communities to develop a consensus based normally on the benefits new housing will bring. You can read more on ACRE’s and our members’ housing work on our website
As part of a unique agreement and using the Network of RCCs, ACRE provides regular bulletins to Defra on a range of rural themes in which the Government is interested. The latest set of housing reports highlight a number of concerns and challenges including funding for RHEs, reductions in housing capital funding, welfare reforms and changes to rent levels and uncertainties caused by delay in finalising Local Plans.

Rural Housing Innovation in Practice
Leila Moss, Hastoe Housing Association
Hastoe Housing Association has a strong commitment to rural communities, to environmental sustainability and, particularly, to innovation and new thinking.
Six years ago Hastoe released a publication called: ‘Ways to finance land and rural housing schemes with little or no Social Housing Grant: A report and toolkit.’   In late July we will be launching a new publication - ‘Rural Housing - Innovation in Practice Report’.  In this report  we follow up the ideas expressed in the toolkit and provide examples of where local people –‘ key influencers’ as we call them – have taken up the challenge and made things happen for their communities.   We also explore other new ideas – tried and not yet tried.
Delivering affordable rural homes is not without its challenges; some are legal, some practical and some are simply about how people react and behave.  The aim of this report, which demonstrates some of the innovative approaches that are being put into practice, is to inspire others – be they elected members, local residents or landowners – to take up the challenge in their own communities.
Hastoe is also a founder member of the National Housing Federation’s Rural Alliance, which launched a Rural Housing Pledge in March 2011, at an event in Parliament attended by MPs from rural constituencies.  The Pledge aims to provide communities and landowners with the confidence to consider developing affordable homes by providing assurance that the homes will always be protected for local people and will always be affordable. 
To register your interest in a copy of the ‘Rural Housing – Innovation in Practice Report’, please contact lmoss@hastoe.com
More information on Hastoe is available at www.hastoe.com

CIH and RSN working together
CIH and RSN are working in partnership to deliver more support for our members working in rural housing delivery and management. Our first survey of members in 2012 highlighted again the great difference that local people can make in the ability to deliver more rural housing. As a response to that, we are developing a short focused guide with top tips and help for professionals on how to work effectively with rural communities. This will be launched at a session being held specifically on rural housing at Housing 2013 – http://www.cihhousing.com – the major housing conference taking place in Manchester between 25 and 27 June 2013. We hope many will be able to catch up with us and hear from experts from Hastoe and Eden on Thursday 27th June for the spotlight session - how to do more with and for rural communities.  Matt Dodd, rural lead at the HCA, has kindly agreed to chair the session and you will also have the chance to speak to Sarah Davis and Andy Dean on your ideas for priority action for the CIH/RSN partnership. The ‘How to’ guide will be available on both websites from then.

Making a difference – Rural Housing Week
Adrian Maunders, Chief Executive at English Rural Housing Association and Chairman of the Rural Alliance
Building affordable rural homes has always been challenging, overcoming local objections, accessing funding, identifying, securing and developing complex sites, being some of the main obstacles that need to be overcome.  Community support is essential, as is a successful partnership between the local authority and housing association.  Rural homes can take years of hard work to come to fruition, with only a handful of units achieved at the end.  Although developments are small in scale, their impact can be immense, typically seeing the biggest investment and change in a small village for a generation.  The social and economic impact of providing new homes enables families to stay together, businesses to remain open and local services to remain viable.
Maintaining the momentum of rural housing delivery, particularly in the difficult operating climate, is one of the primary objectives of the Rural Housing Alliance set-up by the National Housing Federation in 2009.  This year the Alliance and National Housing Federation are promoting a national Rural Housing Week between 10th – 16th June 2013, where providers and supporters of affordable rural homes will come together in a network of activity to raise the profile of our cause.  To find out more or get involved visit http://www.housing.org.uk/get-involved/rural-housing-week-2013.
Affordable rural homes play a vital strategic role in the overall approach we take when planning for the future, town and country should not be seen in isolation, with the wellbeing and success of one dependent on the other.  Taking a sensible approach to providing affordable rural homes is something that should be encouraged and those of us committed to the hard work required to achieve these homes can be proud of the contribution that we make to rural communities and wider housing objectives.

A View of Rural Housing

A regular discussion feature – always thoughtful, often provocative

Rural Affordable Housing – Sinking Without Trace?
Jo.Lavis, Director Rural Housing Solutions

I do not want to be a prophet of doom. Most of my working life I have been positive about how we can deliver more affordable homes, but even I, the eternal optimist, am holding my head in despair.  Through my work across the country I know I am not alone.
The need has not gone away.  There is nothing to suggest that the ARHC’s figure of an annual need for 7,500 per annum in villages has lessened.  Defra’s latest data shows that affordability remains a greater problem in rural than urban areas.  Evidence from Strategic Housing Market Assessments completed two years ago for the East Midlands indicate an annual need for 1,031 new rural affordable homes. In Cumbria surveys in 117 villages over the last five years identified a need for 1177 new affordable homes.
In 2011/12 1005 new affordable homes started on sites in villages.  That is 50% less than the average built between 2008/11. These figures are worrying in themselves, but a closer look reveals significant regional differences, 74% of sites were in the south of England.  Hopefully the next release of data will show delivery reaching the expected 1,800 units per annum.  But because of the way contracts were awarded it is likely that the regional disparity will continue. Neither will this give any comfort for future delivery.  The challenges have not gone away.
Therein lies the core issue, ‘it’s viability stupid’ , I am tempted to scream.  The result of a number of factors that inter-act to leave rural affordable housing looking like a tiny boat in a Perfect Storm.

Cuts in Homes and Communities Agency Grant Rate
As part of the austerity measures the HCA budget was cut by 50% affecting all types of development, but it is the halving of grant rates to £20,000 a unit that hits rural development.  Small rural schemes, often built at a distance from sewage and energy infrastructure, frequently cost more to develop than urban schemes.  The result is a funding gap, which it was expected would be filled by Affordable Rent.

Affordable Rent does not fill the funding gap
Outside high value market areas charging an Affordable Rent, even at 80% of open market rents, does not provide the surplus needed to fill the funding gap. In some parts of North Yorkshire, for example, it generates between £6 per week, in Leicestershire £10 per week.
The flip side is that whilst the Affordable Rent in high value areas can fill the funding gap it is often not affordable to local households.  For example, in Tonbridge and Malling the full Affordable Rent would be £175 per week, which equates to 36% of a household earnings if they are on Kent’s median wage.

RPs cannot fill the gap
The commitment of some Registered Providers, particularly the rural specialists, is amazing.  But their capacity to raise loan is at its limits. Others are increasingly unwilling to take on rural schemes because their higher grant rate requirement reduces the RPs competitiveness when bidding for HCA grant.

Lack of alternative capital grant funding
For rural districts the options are limited. New Homes Bonus is being used to great effect by some to help fund new affordable homes, but as research by ACRE found, faced with significant cuts to their general budgets most rural councils are using this money to support core costs (ACRE survey of RCAN – Information provided by ACRE to Defra, November 2012).
Commuted sums too are often being used where they are available, but in line with policy this is in the locations where they were generated.  Historically, rural areas did not receive much growth or sites that triggered an affordable housing contribution.
Helpfully. the NPPF supports cross-subsidy on rural exception sites. However, research shows that even with the land held at exception site prices this only works in high value areas where the market sales price will provide sufficient surplus to fund the affordable homes (Three Dragons – modelling of cross-subsidy on rural exception sites for RTPI, 2011).
And let’s not pretend that Neighbourhood Planning and Community Led Housing will fill the gap.  As vice –chair of Lincolnshire CLT I fully support this approach.  I have seen the time and effort that residents have to commit – it’s not for everyone.  More crucially, it does not matter how good the Neighbourhood Plan or the support for the community group, if there is no affordable capital funding the homes will not be built.
Beyond that it is difficult to know where to go.  The Government’s incentives to house building have primarily been designed and taken up by volume developers on large sites.  The Loan Guarantee Fund requires an average grant rate across the programme of £15k a unit.

Difficulties accessing mortgage
Accessing mortgages is a common problem, but for lenders the rural Protected Area status, long fought for to ensure a continuing supply of land for affordable homes, is seen as an added risk. There now appear to be only two lenders for rural affordable home ownership (Rural Housing Solutions survey of 6 RPs and 3 LAs across rural England, March 2013). The knock on effect is that RPs are walking away from rural schemes because without cross-subsidy from shared ownership rural schemes become even more unviable.

Impact of Welfare Reform
There is a very limited supply of one bedroomed properties and higher levels of under-occupation of social housing in rural areas (Rural Housing at a time of economic change – Cambridge Centre for Housing Studies, published CRC, May 2012).  This is a consequence of building two /three bedroomed properties to ensure a flexible long term supply of affordable housing where there are few development opportunities.  The likely consequence is that under-occupying households will be forced to move away, possibly having to give up their jobs, certainly away from support networks.  The result arrears and voids, another reason for RPs not to develop rural schemes.

Time for action
As we move into pre-election mode there is an opportunity to change things for the better.  This requires the Rural Voice to be heard and listened to at all levels.  Here’s my top 5 ‘asks’:
1.    Award of a grant rate that takes account of viability and limited availability of alternative capital funding in rural areas.
2.    Re-introduction of some form of national rural target that gives RPs reassurance that there will be funding for rural delivery so they can meet local priorities.
3.    Exemption of rural properties in settlements of less than 3,000 population from the ‘Bedroom Tax’.
4.    Support the establishment of a 'warehouse' loan to provide low cost loans for rural specialist RPs.
5.    Better rural proofing of future policy to create an environment that is more responsive to rural circumstances.

What are yours?
In the meantime I for one am not about to give up.  Poliitical will and officer creativity to meet local ambition is still the cradle of new ideas.  Hopefully through future editions of this newsletter we will share some of them.  Now, any views on whether a local authority or LEP backed revolving capital loan funds linked to joint venture have legs in rural areas…………..?

Jo.Lavis has over 25 years experience of rural affordable housing.  She is currently Director of Rural Housing Solutions, a consultancy that works with Local Authorities and Registered Providers across the country to improve the supply of rural affordable housing.  Jo.Lavis64@gmail.com    www.ruralhousingsolutions.co.uk

The Rural Service Network's Rural Housing Service

The RSN has developed a comprehensive Rural Housing Service. This service includes:

A partnership with Chartered Institute of Housing
We have established a rural housing partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) - combining forces to maximise the benefits for our members working in rural housing management and delivery (for more information click here).

Rural Housing Activities
The Rural Services Network is involved a large range of  activities relating to rural housing (for more information click here).

Rural Housing Objectives
In a period of sustained austerity, rural areas are at most risk as resources become focused on easier solutions where larger numbers of people live (for more information click here).

What can the RSN do for you?

If you haven’t checked out the RSN website recently, it is worth a look.

Rural news, observatory information, an archive of recent CRC publications and best practice information are all available.  Take a look at http://www.rsnonline.org.uk/

Keep Calm and Join Up!

The 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.  The 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.

Analysis of Second Homes in Rural Communities

Second home ownership in rural communities continues to be a hotly debated subject, bringing with it arguments from both sides.

To help inform the debate, the RSN has undertaken analysis which allows the user to interrogate data taken from the Calculation of Council Tax Base for Formula Grant Purposes CTB (Department for Communities and Local Government, October 2012) to better appreciate their local authority’s position in terms of proportion of dwellings being second homes and their relative position against similar local authorities around England.

This analysis can be found by clicking here

RSN Seminars

Our rolling seminar programme is available free of charge to subscribed member authorities and organisations. It aims to help councils and Rural Services Partnership members overcome issues and challenges when delivering rural services.  

Seminars take place around the country. This gives everyone the opportunity to attend a seminar near to them. Each seminar focuses on a different topic with specialist speakers.
To view our 2012/13 seminar programme click here

My Council

For each local authority that is a member of the Rural Services Network - Sparse grouping we provide a dedicated page.

These pages include lots of facts and figures and analysis focussing on that local area.
To view these pages click here.


The RSN Observatory provides a statistical overview of rural life.  It provides analyses and comment on key service provision and issues affecting rural communities.

The Observatory holds six sections which information is provided within. These are:
Rural Business
Rural Dashboard
Rural Leisure
Rural Transport Statistics
Rural Housing & Environment
Rural Living
Click here to view our data.

Our Events

Throughout the year, we provide a range of meetings and seminars free of charge to our subscribed member authorities.

An archive of minutes and agendas is available here

Funding Opportunities

We provide a monthly bulletin setting out current funding opportunities and details of government consultations of interest to rural stakeholders.

To view the archive of previous editions of these bulletins click here

Government pledge on rural services

THE Rural Services Network has welcomed a government promise to do more to support and manage the extra costs of delivering public services in the countryside.

The pledge was made by local government minister Brandon Lewis on 13 February 2013. It follows a campaign by the Rural Services Network for a fairer deal for rural local authorities.
To view this pledge and more information surrounding this click here

Rural Health Network established

A new Rural Health Network has been established following a ground-breaking “Challenging Times” conference in Nottingham last autumn.

The Network will enable health professionals to better share best practice, share learning about delivering high quality services to rural communities and engaging effectively with them.
The Network will also enable a regular interface on rural health issues with policy and decision makers at the highest levels via the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services for which the Rural Services Network acts as the secretariat.

To access more information about Rural health Network as well as exctiting news bout the planned 2013 Conference click here

Rural Vulnerability Service

A new initiative from the Rural Services Network in association with Calor.

The vulnerability service aims to disseminate information about three key rural issues: fuel poverty, broadband and rural transport.
To view an archive of material the distributed click here

Our Sponsors:

What's new

The UK Rural Policy and Practitioners Group (administered by the Rural Services Network) now has a specific section of the SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College website dedicated to it.

For details, click here

Coming Soon.....

Neighbourhood Planning analysis
A successful neighbourhood plan must be based on evidence and an understanding of the place they relate to. Communities need to gather a range of evidence and local knowledge before writing their plan.

Shortly the Rural Services Network will have collated a selection of evidence, which may be useful to communities in starting to shape their evidence base and will publich them under our Observatory section.

Keep your eyes open for this exciting new service we will shortly be offering!
The Rural Services Network is an organisation comprising over 100 local authorities and 120 other public service providers seeking to establish links across public service, identifying and broadcasting best practise, and making representations on rural service issues. For details please go to our website www.rsnonline.org.uk
If you would like to find out more about the Rural Services Network please visit our website www.rsnonline.org.uk.  If you would like to join please contact us on 01822 813641.