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April 2016
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
Hold the date – 2016 National Rural Housing Conference announced
Tuesday 12 July has been announced as the date for this year's annual National Rural Housing Conference. Taking place in London, the conference will be chaired by Countryfile's Tom Heap. A range of speakers are already confirmed including David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation.
Booking details will be available soon. To register your interest please contact Andy Dean at the Rural Services Network.

Rural Exception Sites exempt from Starter Home requirements
As Spotlight went to press, peers were debating the Housing and Planning Bill in the House of Lords as part of the Report Stage. As part of the debate, the government has accepted an amendment which excludes Rural Exception Sites from the proposed Starter Home requirements. The government was also defeated on two further amendments which will allow local authorities to determine the mix of Starter Homes locally and forcing buyers of Starter Homes to repay a proportion of the discount if they sell within the first 20 years of occupation.
Further debate is scheduled within the Lords before the Bill goes to the Commons where decisions will be made by MPs on whether to accept these and other amendments, including in relation to Right to Buy, supported by the Lords.
You can check the latest progress of the bill here.

Voluntary Right to Buy Sounding Board
The National Housing Federation, along with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), has set up a Voluntary Right to Buy (VRTB) Sounding Board as a key group attempting to ensure that the new system works as effectively as possible. The Rural Housing Alliance is represented on this group by its chair, Jake Berriman.
Working Groups on 'One for One replacements' and the 'Applications and Sales Process' are also in place.
You can read notes from the meetings of all these groups here. Wider information on VRTB is also available via this link.

Small Market Town with GSOH seeks lasting relationship with younger people
A market town and challenging youngsters does not sound like a match made in heaven, but the people of Ludlow in South Shropshire are very supportive of their Foyer.
Ludlow Foyer opened in 2000 and is managed by Shropshire Housing Group; this imaginative development in a former flour mill provides accommodation and support for 15 young people and the Foyer Team provide outreach support for up to 80 young people across the rural setting of South Shropshire. As well as accommodation and support from the team the Foyer provides a café, I.T. Hub and access to a wide range of local services, education and training.
The Foyer also provides Shropshire Council's Housing Options Team with emergency 'crash pad accommodation' when family breakdown leave a young person facing homelessness. Even in rural Shropshire this is a not uncommon occurrence and means the Foyer Team are usually supporting several young people from very troubled backgrounds.
The Foyer occupies a prime central Ludlow location and the mainly affluent and retired older community have embraced it. In 2012 John Aitken, the then Mayor of Ludlow chose the Foyer as his charity for the year. John recalls his year of working with The Foyer as a real eye opener in realising the challenges young people living there faced when it came to finding their place in the world:

2016 Rural Housing Week 
Rural Housing Week 2016 will run from Monday 11 to Friday 15 July. This annual event aims to demonstrate the important role affordable housing plays in maintaining rural communities. Housing associations, parish councils and other rural groups and organisations will be running local events to highlight both rural housing issues and solutions. Endorsed by the Rural Housing Alliance and coordinated by the National Housing Federation, you can find out how to get involved by contacting Monica Burns at the Federation.

Shropshire Rural celebrates!
In a double celebration, Shropshire Rural Housing Association (SRHA) has marked both the 'official opening' of eight new homes in the rural village of Kinlet and thirty years since the National Agricultural Committee Housing Association became SRHA; a reminder of the rural roots of the association in providing affordable homes for rural workers and their families.
As principal guest at the opening, National Housing Federation Chief Executive, David Orr described the scheme as "Brilliant! This is exactly what we should be doing..." The eight new homes are interesting for a number of reasons:

Call for review of National Planning Policy
The Communities & Local Government (CLG) Committee has recommended that a review of National Planning Policy should be carried out before the end of this parliament.
It made the recommendation following a committee inquiry into the Department for Communities and Local Government's consultation on proposed changes to national planning policy. The inquiry report said there had been insufficient robust, objective and evidence-based monitoring, evaluation or review of the National Planning Policy Framework since its publication in 2012.
An overall review of the operation of national planning policy should pull together the various significant pieces of work in this area, said the committee. Follow this link for more details.

Rural Affordable Housing Fund set up in Scotland
A new £25 million Rural Housing Fund has been set up designed to increase the number of affordable houses north of the border by 2019. Created as part of the Scottish Government's pledge to build 50,000 new homes over the next five years, a £4 million loan fund offering finance to people who want to build a house in the Highlands has also been launched.
SNP MP Margaret Burgess said: "I'm delighted to announce this new fund today, enabling up to an estimated 500 new homes to be built or refurbished in rural areas. Good quality, affordable housing is essential to help attract and retain people in Scotland's remote and rural communities. We are committed to improving lives across all areas of Scotland by making sure homes are affordable, attractive, and warm. We know building affordable housing in rural areas presents different challenges compared to urban areas which is why we are ensuring this fund is open to rural interests, including community bodies, private landlords and landowners."
More details are available here.

CLT funds announced as part of Budget
In his March 2016 budget, George Osbourne announced £60 million would be made available to enable community-led housing developments, including Community Land Trusts (CLTs), in rural and coastal communities. This will be funded through receipts from higher rate Stamp Duty Land Tax on additional homes (second homes). The Chancellor also announced that £20 million of the total will be dedicated to the South West of England.

Renewable Heat Incentive – still time to comment
The government's consultation on proposed changes to the domestic and non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) schemes closes on 27 April. You can find all the details here.

Power to Change open for Community Businesses
On 26 April Power to Change will begin accepting applications for a £10 million Community Business Fund. Through the fund they will award grants between £50,000- £300,000 to community businesses in England.
The fund is expected to be highly competitive and there will be two further funding rounds in July and October. Guidelines and further details are available via this link.

Government consults on Starter Home regulations
The government has issued a technical consultation document seeking views on the details for the regulations to be made under powers contained in the Housing and Planning Bill; including options for the starter homes requirement on reasonably sized sites.
This consultation closes on 18 May 2016 and more details can be found here.

New look for the Rural Housing Alliance
The Alliance is in the process of developing a new website alongside bespoke branding materials. The 'Rural Pledge' signed up to by all Alliance members is also being reviewed. The website will be launched in the spring – watch this space.

Grants from Help the Homeless
Help The Homeless makes grants to charitable organisations with the aim of helping homeless people return to the community and enabling them to resume a normal life. Grants are available to small and medium-sized charitable organisations to fund the capital costs of projects with grants of up to £5,000. The quarterly deadlines for grant applications each year are: 15 March, 15 June, 15 September and 15 December.
For more information follow this link.
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 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 are all signed up to the Rural Pledge. Launched with the National Housing Federation in 2011, 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.
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.  A further session of the PPG dedicated to rural housing will be held in November this year.  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
Assistant Director
07872 373191
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