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
A focus for rural housing
quarterly 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 December Spotlight will be the end of November. Please contact Andy Dean to discuss any proposals or feedback you may have.
Rural Housing Alliance to partner with RSN
Adrian Maunders, Chair, Rural Housing Alliance and Chief Executive, English Rural Housing Association
The Rural Housing Alliance, a group of affordable rural housing providers from across England, is to partner with the Rural Services Network to create a national advocacy forum for affordable rural housing. Working together the partnership will seek to achieve the shared objectives of promoting the development and good management of affordable rural homes.
More details on the Rural Alliance can be found at http://www.housing.org.uk/policy/rural-housing/rural-alliance-pledge/
An unintended consequence – bedroom deduction savings vs housing local people
Martin Collett, Operations Director, English Rural Housing Association
Those of us involved in rural housing have historically taken a longer term view to the practical occupation of developments, seeking to address both current and future housing needs, whilst recognising that in many instances new affordable homes may be the only ones a village will see for a generation or longer. This approach has necessarily resulted in fewer smaller homes being built, particularly one bedroom properties. A flexible approach to allocations, allowing less than full occupancy in favour of local connection has ensured that up to now, local households have been able to access a home in their community. The mantra of rural housing providers has been to work in partnership with the community to build accommodation that benefits the current and future needs; ‘localism’ in action before the brand became fashionable.
As a consequence of this historical approach and the impact of recent welfare reform changes which penalise this pragmatic method, many rural households are now experiencing financial pressures that force them to consider moving. The key issue being that unlike urban areas, affordable housing is extremely scarce in rural communities and smaller homes scarcer still. Households affected by the problem are faced with a stark choice, to wrench themselves from their home, community and support network or experience financial hardship that is compounded by the high cost of accessing rural services. This policy is also undermining the original purpose of the planning consent (usually granted as an ‘exception’ to normal practice).
In July 2013 the Rural Communities Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee recognised this issue, recommending that Government make rural communities with populations of less than 3,000 exempt from the current under-occupancy deductions applied under welfare reform changes. Agreeing to this recommendation would align national policy with the approach taken to Right to Buy, where rural areas are also exempt for comparable reasons. Given the lower levels of affordable housing that exists in rural areas and the trend for reduced benefit dependency, the cost impact of agreeing to this recommendation would be minimal to savings anticipated through welfare reform, but ensure that households living in affordable rural homes continue to add significant value back to their local communities.
All Party Parliamentary Group – influence in Westminster
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. The next housing APPG takes place on 12 November 2013 and will highlight the issues facing rural communities in the light of welfare reforms, under-occupancy conditions and the increasing difficulty in housing local people. If you would like to contribute please contact Andy Dean
for more information as soon as possible.
Shropshire highlights the plight of young people
Shropshire Housing Group’s new Chief Executive, Jake Berriman is adding his backing to the efforts of local Charities in Ludlow to shine a light on the pressing issues affecting vulnerable children, young families, and the homeless youth of Shropshire. The Ludlow community is coming together to support Ludlow Rotary Club’s biggest charity event of the year, Ludlow Cares. Jake and other hardy volunteers are going to sleep rough in the shadow of Ludlow Castle for one night on 20th September. The Ludlow Rotary Club will use proceeds from the event to support a variety of housing and children centred charities including the Ludlow Foyer, a local housing project for young people run by Shropshire Housing Group, and the Ludlow Food Bank.
‘The pressures and issues faced by young people are very important to us as an organisation’ said Mr Berriman. ‘It is increasingly difficult for younger people to afford to access housing, particularly purchasing their first home. Over 55% of people registered on our waiting list as of August 2013 are looking for one bedroom accommodation which given our rural nature is in scarce supply. This shortage is contributing to an outward migration of younger people from Shropshire with a sharp decline of younger people expected in some areas over forthcoming years and with those who stay becoming increasingly marginalised without support. We are key supporters of Ludlow Foyer, which works with young people who are starting their adult life and provides those who need it with a place to stay. We are also working very closely with organisations like Young Shropshire in Work to find and fund training opportunities and work placements for young people taking their first steps into employment and towards independent living. It is often not appreciated that young and vulnerable people living in rural areas are affected by the same issues as city youngsters as it is always the problems of our larger towns and cities that make the headlines. Our chocolate box image and perception of rural tranquillity mask issues of isolation, rough sleeping and homelessness arising in our smaller rural towns to the point where they can become almost invisible. Unfortunately, projects like the Foyer alone cannot solve the issues that are faced by too many of our young people and I am pleased to join the tremendous effort being made by Ludlow Rotarians to highlight the problems and raise funds to help alleviate them.’
For more information on the Ludlow Cares sleepout go to http://ludlowcares.org
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 developed a short focused guide with top tips and help for professionals on how to work effectively with rural communities.
This is available at http://www.cih.co.uk/howtobriefings
Rural Housing Conference – 25 September, Exeter
Rural Housing in a Challenging Environment is the title of a conference taking place in Exeter on 25 September and organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing in partnership with the Rural Services Network.
• Hear updates from the HCA about its contribution to delivering affordable rural housing and plans for the future
• Discuss and debate the latest initiatives in relation to housing and the rural economy
• Learn innovative solutions to the current challenges in rural housing from credible housing practitioners
• Discover how to work effectively with local communities so that more homes that are affordable for local people can be built
• Take advantage of an excellent opportunity to network with fellow housing professionals and be involved in interactive discussions
Follow the link below to find out more and book a place:
Hastoe’s new straw bales housing scheme officially opened
A development of four affordable ‘straw bale’ Hastoe homes in High Ongar, Essex, is being officially opened by Eric Pickles MP on 13 September. This is the first development of straw bale housing built in Britain by a housing association.
Hastoe has been filming the build process and will release time-lapse footage and interviews with the key people involved to share knowledge within the industry.
Two 2-bedroom and two 3-bedroom houses have been developed by Hastoe Housing Association at Millfield in partnership with Epping Forest District Council, on former Council-owned land. The houses have been let at affordable rents to families on the Council’s housing register.
The land was transferred to Hastoe at a discounted price, and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) contributed a grant of £92,000. The properties were designed by architects, Parsons + Whittley, and constructed by DCH, a local contractor based in Coggeshall. The straw bales used were a sustainable by-product of farming and the bales were sourced from a local farm - Williams Brothers.
There are a number of benefits of using straw bales within housing. Whilst the costs of construction are similar to costs of conventional construction, houses built using straw bales need almost no conventional heating due to their exceptionally high insulating properties. The residents will benefit from fuel costs around 85% cheaper than the average costs for heating similar homes of traditional construction.
Structural parts of the houses, such as the walls, have been built using timber frames, in-filled with the straw bales. The walls have been covered externally, with a lime render. The character of straw bales houses suits the rural location of the site at Millfield, overlooking farmers’ fields. With clay tile roofs the houses incorporate mainly natural materials and have a slightly rustic quality, although overall they will have the appearance of conventional homes. The timber porches are roofed with sedum plants.
Since the straw absorbs carbon dioxide as it is growing, it is widely accepted that buildings of this type of construction have a low, zero or even negative carbon footprint. When complete, the high level of energy efficiency will reduce CO2 emissions by around 60%, compared to conventionally-built homes.
Tests on other straw bale structures by the University of Bath have established that they are strong enough to withstand hurricane force winds up to 120mph - enough to defy the huff and puff of any big bad wolf! They also have a fire rating at least double the requirements of Building Regulations.
Councillor Maggie McEwen, the Council’s Housing Portfolio Holder said:
“We are very pleased that the first straw bale houses in the country built by a housing association will be in the Epping Forest District, and that the Council has played such an important part in the success of the project so far. The reduced fuel costs will be an enormous help for families on low incomes, and we are very pleased to be at the forefront of such an eco-friendly scheme.”
Hastoe’s Chief Executive, Sue Chalkley, said:
“We look forward to welcoming Eric Pickles to officially open the High Ongar straw bales scheme as this is an exemplar project. Hastoe is committed to providing affordable housing in rural areas for the benefit of local people.
“Sustainability is a key part of our approach and this is mirrored by Epping Forest District Council’s drive for highly energy efficient homes. We have been through an extensive design and planning process to ensure that the new homes will be a real benefit to the community.”
For more information please contact: Leila Moss on 020 8973 0437 or email@example.com
How much do you know about community-led housing?
Catherine Harrington, National CLT Network
As the nation heads back to school, supplied with enthusiasm and new stationery, community-led housing delivery is moving up the ranks to sit at the top of the class. This autumn, we will be celebrating 5 years since a group of funders came together as the CLT Fund
to support the development of new Community Land Trusts. These volunteer-led organisations are changing the future of housing in their communities, providing permanently affordable homes, a long-term financial investment in their neighbourhood and a solid, cohesive infrastructure of people who know how to work together for the good of their local area.
There are now over 150 CLTs in England and the time is ripe to find out more. This September make space in your diary to find out what happens when localism takes off. Visit Keswick Community Housing Trust at their Site Open Days on 17 and 18 September
. Then join the National CLT Network in Ely on 25 September
for the East of England CLT conference. You’ll be hearing from top speakers from DCLG, community organisations and the HCA on how to inspire communities to take the lead in providing affordable housing. More details are available on the National CLT Network website
What’s more, there is money out there to help. Before Easter the Housing Minister announced that the rules governing funding for the Community Right to Build were to be relaxed, making it available for CLTs and other groups using a variety of different development routes. The £17 million Community Led Project Support Funding is now available and open to applications. The CLT network’s guidance note
gives tips on how to apply.
If you want to hear more about next steps or to see it with your own eyes, the National CLT Network is here to help. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Housing Standards Review
The housing standards review was launched in October 2012 following the housing and construction Red Tape Challenge, which was introduced in spring 2012.
It was a fundamental review of the building regulations framework and voluntary housing standards which aimed to rationalise the large number of codes, standards, rules, regulations and guidance that affect the house building process.
The review was undertaken by a wide range of cross sectoral stakeholder working groups and the government has recently published a consultation document which sets out their proposals on:
You can comment on these proposals during the consultation period which closes on 22 October 2013.