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October 2014
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
Rural Housing Policy Review update
A BIG THANK YOU to all the Parish Councils and local authorities that responded to the surveys sent out by the Rural Housing Policy Review.  A total of 418 Parish & Town Councils from across England and 60 local authorities replied.  Analysis is continuing but emerging headlines include:
•    Just under 50% of the most rural districts reported that over the last three years it has become harder to deliver rural affordable housing
•    55% still rely on a Local Plan that is more than 6 years old
•    Most rural local authorities are using all financial and planning levers they can to support rural delivery
•    In the majority of areas the pace of Right to Buy is increasing, but only two Councils said they could achieve a one for one replacement in their rural areas.
Amongst Parish and Town Councils 82% either have an affordable housing scheme or are working towards one.  The main reasons that they are involved are:
•    We knew there were people in our community who could not find a home they could afford
•    We felt that more affordable housing was needed if our village was to thrive
17% of Parish and Town Councils are not engaged.  The main reasons for not being involved are:
•    There is no housing need
•    There are no suitable sites

Older People’s Housing Needs – Call for Evidence
Research shows that most older people would ideally choose to continue living independently within their local community but sometimes they are forced to move due to the lack of suitable accommodation.
RSN would like to know about any rural housing initiatives successfully meeting the needs of older people so that we can use these as best practice case studies.  We are interested in all sectors and tenures and in both age-specific and more mixed developments.  Examples from smaller communities of fewer than 3000 people, developments on ‘exceptions sites’, and schemes resulting from neighbourhood planning would be particularly welcome.  Initially, we would be grateful for the following information:
•    The location of the development- village/ town and county
•    A brief description of the development including number of units, type of accommodation, and tenure (if known).
•    Your contact name with email and /or phone number. We will not pass these to anyone else without your permission.
Please contact Jane Hart  direct with any case studies or queries.

£1 million Affordable Housing Fund for Eden
A £1 million fund for affordable housing has been approved in the Cumbrian district of Eden.  The Affordable Housing Innovation Fund, backed by councillors on Eden District Council on September 18, will give the council "more control over the development process" as it seeks to address demand for affordable housing in the district.  Housing associations will be able to bid for funds from the £1m pot at low interest over 25 years to boost development.  Lesley Grisedale, Eden Council's portfolio holder for housing, said:
“We recognise that lower paid workers in Eden, who don’t qualify for social housing, also cannot afford the deposit for a mortgage. This means a big demand for 2-3 bedroom private rented accommodation.  We have to innovate to succeed. This means building low-cost, energy efficient housing. We also want better tenancies for low-income families. 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 fund will open for bidders later this year.

Affordable Housing – A Guide for Parish Councils
The updated version of the Rural Housing Alliance practical guide is nearing completion.  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 current guide has proved incredibly popular and, with the changes of recent years, the Alliance is keen to ensure that a simple and practical guide is in place to help Parish Councils deliver new homes.  The updated Guide will be published in the autumn of 2014 in association with the Rural Services Network.  Many of you have already registered to receive an electronic copy of the guide.  If you haven’t, there is still time to register by emailing Andy Dean now.

Shropshire Rural Housing roll out Ground Source heat pumps
Shropshire Rural Housing is a small charitable housing association with just over 270 homes in deeply rural areas of Shropshire.  Many of their homes are off the gas grid and are currently heated by economy 7 storage heaters.  SRHA is acutely aware of the impact of fuel poverty on the lives of customers and over the past 5 years have invested heavily in undertaking improvements to the fabric of stock to improve the thermal performance and reduce running costs.  Programmes completed have included new windows and external doors to older homes and cavity wall and loft insulation to current standards across the whole stock.
A stock condition survey was completed in 2012 and the main priority identified by the surveyor and tenants alike was to replace the storage heater systems with a modern efficient affordable heating system.  An option appraisal looking at alternative forms of heating was undertaken with the conclusion that Ground Source Heat Pumps and a retro-fit radiator system was the most efficient and effective solution.  The problem was cost!

Rural Manifesto for the 2015 General Election
RSN is currently finalising a Manifesto document, which it will use ahead of the 2015 General Election to make the rural case across a range of topics, including housing.  The document reflects the views of RSN members and the housing element has been discussed at meetings of the Rural Housing Alliance.  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.  If you have any views which you wish to put forward please contact Andy Dean in the first instance.

New Affordable Homes opened in Barton Mills
The leader of Forest Heath District Council and the cabinet member responsible for housing, have opened one of the latest affordable homes developments in the district.  Six years ago, a local housing needs survey found that some residents in Barton Mills were living in inadequate accommodation, while others had to move away due to a lack of affordable housing in the village.  Forest Heath District Council, and its West Suffolk partner St Edmundsbury Borough Council, are working toward plans to explore building and buying affordable homes, as well as continuing to work with registered providers such as Hastoe Housing to deliver more affordable housing.

Threat to affordable rural homes!
Government proposals threaten to reduce the delivery of much needed affordable housing in the countryside.  The Department for Communities and Local Government has been canvassing opinion on proposals to introduce a 10-unit threshold for Section 106 affordable housing contributions. RSN, the Rural Housing Alliance and many others have already responded to a government consultation on the proposals.
In a further move, RSN chief executive Graham Biggs has written directly to communities minister Brandon Lewis over the issue.
"The 10-home threshold would be nothing short of ruinous for the provision of affordable housing in rural areas," said Mr Biggs.  Currently 66% of affordable homes in rural areas came through Section 106 Agreements, he added.  Most developments were small, said Mr Biggs. The vast majority were below the ten unit threshold – not least because the smaller the scheme, the less the local opposition.
“Without an obligation to provide any affordable homes, this supply will virtually dry up.”
A final decision on this issue is expected shortly from government.  See here for further information.

Rural Extra Care Scheme welcomes its first residents
A new hi-specification £14 million extra care scheme in a rural Staffordshire village welcomed its first residents in August.  Pencric, in Penkridge, South Staffordshire is an independent living complex providing high quality apartments within a supportive environment. People living in the scheme benefit from having a dedicated team of staff who can provide support if needed and respond to emergencies 24 hours a day.  The scheme has excellent communal facilities that friends, families and people living in the local community can enjoy. The licensed bar and restaurant along with the hair and beauty salon and gym create a great opportunity to make the scheme the centre of the community.
The scheme has been designed and developed by the Housing Plus Group and will be managed by its care and support company Care Plus.  Richard Evans of Housing Plus said:  “It offers a vibrant and active place to live for people aged 55 and above or younger people with a care and support need and who have a connection to Penkridge and the surrounding parishes. Pencric consists of 82 one and two-bedroom apartments and is designed to meet the identified housing need of rural Staffordshire's ageing population.”

Housing Associations ‘most trusted’ to give energy saving advice
Housing associations are the most trusted source of advice for residents wanting to cut their energy use, according to a study undertaken by Sustainable Homes for the Department of Energy & Climate Change. The survey revealed that housing associations who manage property are in the best position to offer help, followed by energy charities. Friends and family came in third place.  The survey was conducted as part of the National Energy Study, looking at energy use within the home.  It confirmed that many people continue to struggle to make sense of bills, with 75% saying they had difficulty understanding them.
Andrew Eagles, managing director of Sustainable Homes, who conducted the study, said:  “These results drive home the point that in the battle against rising bills we need to get better at giving people the tools they need to manage them well. This means more than investing in insulation and other improvements – though we absolutely need to do that too. Housing associations are in a great position to help: not only are they based in the communities they serve, people are more willing to take their advice at face value.”

Rent to Buy scheme launched by government
Under this 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.

Right to Move consultation underway
The Autumn Statement 2013 announced the government’s intention to introduce a ‘Right to Move’ for social tenants who need to move to take up a job, or live closer to employment or training. The government has now set out its proposals to deliver the Right to Move in a consultation document.  Consultation closes on 22 October 2014.  More information is available via this link.

Housing standards review
The government has set out its revised policy on housing standards and is seeking views on draft technical standards and other practical matters of implementation. This follows the 2013 consultation, the outcome of which was announced in March 2014.
The government says that “these new standards are intended to underpin the delivery of high quality housing whilst ensuring that the overall cost of development is reduced.

Housing Stock Transfer Fund available
Council tenants wanting more influence and control over their homes will have access to a share of £100 million to do just that, the Housing Minister announced on 14 July 2014.
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, tenant groups wanting to exercise this Right to Transfer have been able to bid for a share of this £100 million fund to help that process, with the money becoming available from April 2015.

Affordable Homes Borrowing Powers for Local Authorities
The Housing Minister announced on 7 July 2014 that 15 councils will be able to borrow £60 million additional funds over the next 2 years to build over 1,000 homes in their area.
He also launched a second round of bidding for an additional £240 million of borrowing for councils. Any council looking to bid in the next round can find out more via email at
The press release can be viewed here.
Forward to Friend
 Joint Working 

The Chartered Institute of Housing and RSN are working 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 at
Next on the partnership agenda with CIH is a focus on rural responses to the increasingly ageing population.  Watch this space for more information.
 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.  The next APPG will focus solely on rural housing and takes place at the end of October.  If you have any views on key topics which should be covered 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 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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