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April 2015
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
National Rural Housing Conference 2015 date confirmed  
Following the huge success of the inaugural 2014 conference held in Cheltenham, the date has now been confirmed for a second National Rural Housing conference this year. This half day conference will take place on Thursday 9 July in the House of Lords, aiming to build on the Rural Housing Policy Review published earlier this year and put a national spotlight on rural housing issues and opportunities. The full agenda is currently being finalised and conference bookings will open in May.
Places will be strictly limited to 70. If you would like to receive direct notification when bookings open please contact Andy Dean as soon as possible.

Political Manifestos under scrutiny  
The Rural Services Network has analysed manifestos published by the three main political parties ahead of the election on 7 May. Network research director Brian Wilson assessed pledges contained in the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem manifestos against the Rural Services Network's own election manifesto. You can look at the full analysis here.
The Local Government Associaton has also produced a guide which you can view here. A separate BBC policy guide to the manifestos can be seen here.

New homes celebrated at Youlgrave  
The opening of a new scheme of houses in a village is usually cause for celebration but this was particularly the case for the celebration of 8 new homes for local people in Youlgrave, Derbyshire on Friday 10th April.
The homes have been provided by an innovative local partnership of Youlgrave Community Land Trust and Peak District Rural Housing Association. They have been closely supported by emh group as development agents. Grant funding for the homes has come from the Homes and Community Agency and Derbyshire Dales District Council.
Read more...   
Warm and green – achieving affordable, low carbon energy while reducing countryside impacts  
A report published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), and the research underpinning it, sheds new light on the scale of current energy problems and the solutions needed to tackle them. It explores the current realities of greening rural homes and community buildings. This report also considers how the necessary cuts in carbon from housing can be made and what this might mean for the countryside. CPRE commissioned Cambridge Architectural Research and Anglia Ruskin University to conduct the research which includes a series of recommendations for government, the construction and retrofit industry and for householders and those responsible for community buildings.
To find out more, follow this link.

Record breaking bond issue secures £10m investment for affordable rural homes  
English Rural Housing Association has secured a new £10m loan through Affordable Housing Finance (AHF) to help fund investment in 200 new affordable rural homes over the next five years. The debt has been secured at a record low interest rate for the sector of 2.92% fixed for 28 years and was part of a larger bond issue involving 12 housing associations, totalling £194m. The bond has benefitted from support under the governments guarantee programme, where in the unlikely event that housing associations cannot pay the debt, the government pledges to pay.
Read more...  
Keeping pace – Replacing Right-to-buy sales  
The next government should adopt a more flexible approach to the Right-to-buy (RTB) scheme say councils, as a new survey shows most authorities only expect to be able to replace half or fewer of the homes they sell under it.
The survey was carried out by the Local Government Association (LGA), Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), and the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA).
Government figures show that about 11,260 homes were sold under the scheme between 2013 and 2014, almost double the 2012 to 2013 figure of 5,944. However, 73 per cent of councils responding to the survey feel that the current system only allows them to replace half or fewer of homes they have sold. Twelve per cent said they will not be able to replace any at all.
This hinders councils' efforts to find homes for those residents currently on their waiting lists. With almost 1.4 million households currently waiting for a home, the report argues that it is imperative that councils have the powers to replace housing sold through RTB quickly and effectively. This will allow other families in their areas to access affordable homes and keep down future housing benefit bills.
The full report 'Keeping pace – Replacing Right-to-buy sales' is available to download here.

First Community Land Trusts for Lincolnshire  
Two new Community Land Trusts in Lincolnshire are the first in the county to develop new homes to meet local need. Pinchbeck CLT and Wilsford CLT each partnered with Lincolnshire Rural Housing Association and developer Westleigh Homes to develop homes for Affordable rent. In both cases the CLT owns the freehold of the land which it has leased to the Housing Association for 125 years in return for a ground rent which must be re-invested back into the village.
Read more...   
Innovative new rural homes in Wiltshire  
Wiltshire Rural Housing Association has recently let an exciting new scheme of 10 homes at Upper Minety in Wiltshire.
Working with their Architects, White Design, the Association were keen to build an innovative scheme that complemented the local rural environment. The homes had to be spacious, practical, adaptable, highly insulated and affordable to heat. All the homes have achieved Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4, the Building for Life standard, and are Secure by Design certificated. The houses are heated using Air Source Heat pumps and an innovative 'passive ventilation' system has been installed to provide clean air and prevent condensation.
Read more...   
New rural lettings policy launched in South Somerset  
Local residents are to be given priority in rural parts of South Somerset thanks to a new Rural Lettings Policy, approved by the District Council at the start of April. Vacancies in parishes with low housing stock will initially go to applicants with a local connection.
New families are finding it increasingly difficult to remain in their village because of the cost of home ownership and the lack of affordable housing, and often have to move away from their support networks to urban centres if they want a new home.
The new policy applies the principle of the 'doughnut ring', as is often used in rural exceptions schemes: if there are no applicants with a local connection to the parish in question, the next priority will be to applicants with a connection to any immediately neighbouring parish.
Read more...   
Affordable homes still sought from all sites in Shropshire  
Nick Wood from Shropshire County Council writes:
Affordable housing is a primary concern for the Council. Shropshire is rural, in some parts deeply rural, and is the 3rd largest Council area in England. It has a population density of 0.9 people per hectare and has large areas designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is a very desirable place to live and is therefore affected by a buoyant housing market, but with low rural household incomes, it creates house price to income ratios as high as 14 to 1 in some areas. This makes home ownership unachievable for the overwhelming majority of local first time buyers and as a consequence, the demand for affordable housing in Shropshire exceeds the total build for all new homes every year. Plainly for the sake of the long term sustainability of local communities, the Council as a strategic housing authority has a duty to consider and address these needs and imbalances.
Read more...   

Parish Council Guide promoted in Staffordshire  
Like many Housing Association officers around rural England, Tony Price of Housing Plus has been busy promoting the Parish Council Guide to Affordable Housing. In a dedicated article within the Staffordshire Parish Councils' Association Spring 2015 Gazette Tony advises of a raft of ways that Parish Councils can help local people access housing in their village or locality including:
Read more...   
Royal opening for affordable rural homes  
Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited David Collins Drive, Manuden on March 31st 2015 to officially open the affordable housing on the development. The four affordable homes at David Collins Drive were built in 2014 and are the result of an innovative community project also incorporating market homes and extensive facilities for the local community; the project was driven by Manuden Parish Council in partnership with English Rural Housing Association, Pelham Structures and Uttlesford District Council.
The affordable homes have been made available at a lower than market rent and planning restrictions ensure that local households with a connection to the village have priority to live in them.
Read more...   
Measuring social impact  
The Rural Housing Alliance has been working on a practical approach to measuring social impact for rural Housing Associations. The approach, which recognises the significant impacts of providing affordable homes and related services, has been piloted with four Associations and a detailed guide will be produced later this year for use by all Alliance members with potential for wider application. Watch this space.

Increasing the borrowing capacity of stock transfer housing associations – consultation  
The Department for Communities and Local Government is seeking proposals and ideas on how the government can help stock transfer housing associations borrow more to build much needed homes.
The consultation closes on 31 May 2015 and more information is available here.

Homelessness Change and Platform for Life Funds available  
The overarching aims of this funding available from the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) are twofold: to provide tailored hostel accommodation to improve the physical and mental health outcomes for rough sleepers and support them towards independent living; and, to provide stable, transitional, shared accommodation for young people who are homeless or in insecure housing - accommodation that provides a positive environment from which to engage with work, training and education and to progress towards full independence.
£25 million will be made available by the Department of Health to support development across both elements of the funding programme in England, outside of London. Bidding is open to all organisations who are, or intend to become, qualified as HCA investment partners. This includes housing associations, local authorities, private sector developers and community groups, among others. Bids need to be submitted by 12 June 2015. Further information is available via this link.

Custom Build Serviced Plots Loan Fund available via continuous market engagement 
Following the conclusion of the initial bidding round in 2014, access to the Custom Build Serviced Plots loan fund has reopened on a continuous market engagement basis until it is fully allocated.
A prospectus for the £150 million fund outlines the provision of short term loans to bring forward 'shovel ready' serviced plots ready for the development of custom build housing. The fund is intended to help address the primary difficulty faced by many custom builders – securing a suitable plot for their project.
The fund is intended to be open to applications from 2014/15 until 2019/20. The total fund must be drawn down by 31 March 2020. Further information is available via this link.
Forward to Friend
 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 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.  In October 2014 the APPG focused solely on rural housing – specifically the importance of section 106 sites and local connection criteria.  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
Housing and External Funding
07872 373191
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