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January 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
Call for changes as Housing & Planning bill reaches Lords
A host of organisations including RSN, CPRE, the CLA and Hastoe Housing are calling for amendments to the Housing & Planning bill. Central to their argument are:
• Extension of Right to Buy to Housing Association properties will further deplete an already chronic shortage of affordable homes unless adequate exemptions are in place
• Properties historically lost to the social rented sector under Right to Buy have failed to be replaced
• Allowing Starter Homes to be built on Rural Exception Sites will stymie future release of land for this vital source of affordable housing
• Protections are vital to prevent rural Council properties from being sold to fund the Right to Buy
You can check the latest progress of the bill here.

Right to Buy and other government policies likely to reduce rural affordable homes
The lack of affordable rural homes could be exacerbated by government policies, rural business leaders have warned.
There is a 76% shortfall in rural affordable housing in some areas, according to a recent Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors report. Average house prices in some countryside communities are 11 times greater than average annual wages, warns the RICS policy paper. The document calls on rural estate owners to work with local authorities to create more affordable new homes in the countryside.
However, landowners bringing land forward at considerable undervalue are likely to be put off doing so by the new Housing and Planning Bill, according the Country Land and Business Association. CLA eastern region director Ben Underwood said: "The lack of homes in the countryside is extremely worrying for rural communities and the rural economy. The situation in some areas is already critical."

Government consults on changes to National Planning Policy
The current consultation on National Planning Policy raises important issues in relation to the definition of affordable housing, development on small sites, starter homes and rural exception sites. The government states that this consultation is seeking views on specific changes in the following areas:
• "broadening the definition of affordable housing, to expand the range of low cost housing opportunities for those aspiring to own their new home
• increasing residential density around commuter hubs, to make more efficient use of land in suitable locations
• supporting sustainable new settlements, development on brownfield land and small sites, and delivery of housing allocated in plans
• supporting delivery of starter homes"
This consultation closes on 22 February 2016 and can be found via this link. Suggested possible responses to the consultation can be found here.

Harrogate builds affordable homes in-house
Tenants have now moved into the first two houses built as part of a Harrogate Borough Council scheme which could see 50 new affordable homes being built on its land across the district. The energy efficient properties, built on a former garage site in Glasshouses village, have been financed from the council's existing housing funds and carried out by the in-house maintenance team at Harrogate Borough Council. The council's multi-trade apprentices have gained invaluable experience throughout the building process.
The houses are designed to achieve a 19% carbon reduction with solar roof panels generating electricity and water system designed so that only 105 litres per person per day is needed, 45 litres less than the national average. The homes also incorporate a home office, so new and future residents will be able to work from home.


North Yorkshire Rural Housing Enabler expands east
As part of new joint working with East Riding of Yorkshire Council through the North Yorkshire Housing Board and new Housing Strategy, the new post of Rural Housing Enabler for the East Riding of Yorkshire has been created.
David Siddle has filled the role with considerable experience of both housing development and management work across both the local authority and housing association sectors. Commenting on his appointment he said 'I am delighted to be part of the Rural Housing Enabler network and am looking forward to working in East Yorkshire where I know there are unmet housing needs in many rural communities'.
For more information contact David directly.

Government slammed over rural funding
MPs have blasted the government's proposed funding settlement for local authorities in rural areas, describing it as unfair and inadequate. This was the subject of a House of Commons debate on 11 January. The debate was secured by Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, who is also chairman of the parliamentary Rural Fair Share Campaign.
Urban residents received 45% more in central government grant than their rural counterparts – despite paying £81 less in council tax per head, Mr Stuart told MPs.
The government's own figures showed that urban residents enjoyed higher earnings than their rural counterparts, yet people in significantly rural areas were the very poorest paid, he added. Mr Stuart asked: "How can it be fair for poorer rural residents to pay higher council taxes than their richer urban cousins while receiving fewer services?"


Valuing the Village in South Derbyshire
Valuing the VillageTrent & Dove housing association, involved in a ground breaking study into the challenges affecting village life, is celebrating the completion of its £2.4m development at 'Clayfields' in Repton.
The landmark report, entitled 'Valuing the Village', highlighted provision of affordable housing as one of the key areas needed to safeguard the future of Britain's market towns and hamlets. Officially opening the development, former Chair of both The Rural Coalition and National Housing Federation, Lord Matthew Taylor of Goss Moor, said:
"Clayfields is proof that new developments can be well designed and fit beautifully in a rural village setting – whilst providing high quality affordable as well as open market homes to meet critical levels of local need. Here we see the success of the council, developer, housing association and local residents working in partnership to provide high quality, affordable homes of mixed tenure, which will help ensure the village remains a vibrant, sustainable community for many years to come. Building the 'Big Society' in the countryside requires partnership and imagination, and the benefits of this are here to see at Clayfields."


All aboard! HARAH celebrates 10 years of providing affordable homes with a bus tour
Hampshire Alliance for Rural Affordable Housing (HARAH) has been welcomed back to thriving rural affordable housing schemes that it helped create since the partnership was formed in 2005. Residents and parish representatives from four rural villages in Hart and Basingstoke & Deane districts showcased the lasting benefits that rural homes have brought to their community. The HARAH 10th Birthday Bus Tour made stops at rural affordable housing schemes in the parishes of Eversley, Preston Candover, Upton Grey and South Warnborough. The tour gave parish representatives a chance to see first-hand how affordable housing in rural villages can look and work in practice and to talk to people involved in developing established schemes, with a view to undertaking a scheme in their own parish. Participants saw for themselves how, with sensitive design and management, rural affordable homes remain an asset to the community year after year.
You can read more in the HARAH Winter 2015 newsletter here.

Youlgrave Rural Housing Scheme scoops regional awards
A rural housing scheme in the Peak District scooped East Midlands regional awards for both residential scheme of the year and best scheme of the year from the Forum for the Built Environment. This organisation brings together professionals in the construction industry. The judges look at all types of buildings, their design and the build process.
Hannah Bowman Way, Youlgrave was completed in March 2015. A scheme of six houses and two bungalows built for local people. These new homes were provided as a result of a close partnership between Peak District Rural Housing Association, Youlgrave Community Land Trust and EMH Group, with great support from Derbyshire Dales District Council.
The judges were impressed by the way the partnership of organisations had worked over several years to overcome difficulties presented by localised opposition to the scheme and setbacks in the funding of the scheme. They appreciated the good design of the homes which reflected local building styles and traditions as well as the use of local limestone and slate. They noted this traditional approach did not compromise the energy efficiency of the homes which reached code for sustainable homes level 4.


Rural Housing Advisory Group becomes independent
The Rural Housing Advisory Group (RHAG) became an independent body in November 2015. Originally established by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), RHAG represents bodies that work in and for rural communities in the provision of rural housing of all tenures. It sits alongside other representative rural groups: the Rural Coalition that works on a wide range of rural issues and the Rural Housing Alliance.
Key objectives for RHAG are the promotion of rural housing delivery, monitoring evidence on rural housing need and providing a collective voice across a range of organisations. The Rural Housing Alliance is represented on RHAG by the Alliance chair. For more information contact Andy Dean.

Affordable Starter Homes Fund announced
The government has announced a £1.2 billion starter home fund to prepare brownfield sites for new homes. This is intended to fast-track the creation of at least 30,000 new starter homes and up to 30,000 market homes on 500 new sites by 2020.
The new investment is intended to help kick-start regeneration and secure planning permission in urban areas – renovating disused or under-occupied urban sites so builders can get to work without any delays.
The announcement was made on 4 January 2016 and the press release can be viewed at this link.

New look for the Rural Housing Alliance
The Alliance is in the process of developing a new website alongside bespoke branding materials. 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.

New Homes Bonus proposed changes
The government is seeking views on options for changes to the New Homes Bonus. The Department for Communities and Local Government state that the consultation aims "to better reflect authorities' delivery of new housing." The consultation also seeks views on reducing the number of years in which current and future payments are made.
This consultation closes on 10 March 2016 and can be viewed here.
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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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