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October 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
A few words from the new chair of the Rural Housing Alliance
Jake Berriman, Shropshire Housing Group
This month I took over the Chair of the Rural Housing Alliance which held its first meeting of my two year tenure. The RHA is an Independent advisory body of rural housing providers who:
• Provide a single, clear and collective voice for housing associations' lobbying and influencing on rural housing, and
• Enable specialist rural housing associations to compare and learn from each other's' work in areas such as design, sustainability and community capacity building.
This was also the first meeting that we have held since the NHF Conference, the announcements made on voluntary Right to Buy and the yes vote giving the National Federation a mandate to further negotiate with the Government should they be minded to proceed with the offer of voluntary Right to Buy (RtB) rather than put their manifesto commitments into statute.


Potential rural exemptions from Right to Buy extension
A wide cross section of rural organisations including the Rural Services Network, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, the Country Land and business owners Association and others are pressing for a number of specific exemptions for rural areas from any voluntary of statutory extension of the Right to Buy. The proposed exemptions are as follows:

National award for community owned homes
A development of new community owned homes in a Northumberland village has won nationwide acclaim, after picking up a National Housing Award in London.
The homes on Guessburn in Stocksfield were developed by Isos Housing on behalf of the local community, who formed a group known as SCATA (Stocksfield Community Association Trading Arm) to bring the project forward.


Wiltshire Rural welcomes Kilmersdon tenants
Wiltshire Rural Housing Association is delighted to announce that it has completed a formal Transfer of Engagements with Kilmersdon Rural Housing Association (KRHA) following registration by the Financial Conduct Authority.
In April, the Association was chosen by the Trustees of KRHA as their 'preferred partner' to undertake the Transfer of Engagements. The Trustees were impressed with Wiltshire Rural's record of providing high quality services to tenants and delivering new homes.


Prime Minister announces Starter Home push
In his closing speech at the October 2015 Conservative Party Conference, David Cameron announced that the requirement that developers provide a certain amount of affordable housing to rent will be removed. He said the phrase "affordable homes" is deceptive. "It basically means ones that were only available for rent. What people want are homes they can actually own."
Instead, developers will be able to provide starter homes. Those who buy the new starter homes will be prevented from selling them for a quick profit under the new policy while the definition of affordable housing will change to include starter homes and not just rental properties.


New housing development a first for Worcestershire
Wychavon planners have given the green light to a new type of housing development which will be the first of its kind in Worcestershire.
Rooftop Housing Group will build ten affordable homes, some private housing, allotments and a new village hall off Hawthorn Rise in Tibberton near Droitwich.
But unlike other housing developments in the county, the scheme is unique as it has been led by the Tibberton Community Land Trust - a charity made up of more than 100 local people who will be responsible for the development of the new facilities for the benefit of the community.


Allocated and adjacent exception sites combine to deliver local needs homes
Bethersden parish has a population of nearly 1500 people. For many years the Parish Council has been seeking a site on which to develop local needs housing. An opportunity arose when a site allocated for development was being brought forward adjacent to a potential exception site.
A housing needs survey carried out by the Rural Housing Enabler in 2012 identified that there were 21 households with a strong local connection to the parish in need of affordable housing.


Supporting older people to remain in a rural community
Recognising the needs of older people, who do not wish to leave their rural community to find more suitable accommodation, Ashford Borough Council has worked alongside Parish Councils since 2008 to bring forward suitable accommodation of a scale appropriate to smaller rural communities.
In 2010 a policy was adopted within the Tenterden and Rural Sites Development Plan Document to enable the development of specialised accommodation to meet an identified local need. This has allowed a scheme come forward on an exception site to meet an identified need based on social wellbeing rather than centred on affordability.


Cycling and walking the Shropshire way
Sharon Turner, Shropshire Housing Group
At a time when we are all looking at the Social return on Investment and ensuring value for money it is crucial that we find way of making the money we spend go further and where possible meet multiple objectives. In rural areas we are used to cuts in public transport so its great when initiatives come along which help people to get out and about, stay active and meet new friends.
Members of a cycling club set up at one of Shropshire Housing Group's sheltered housing schemes have been enjoying extra miles in the saddle recently thanks to a grant from the Group's Community Development Fund.
Pedals2Health based at Grange Road, in Bishops Castle, was set up 18 months ago and has eight members. The group has access to five bikes, three trikes each with disability adaption kits and a Freego electric bike meaning all members including those in a wheelchair can join in and enjoy the health and social benefits of cycling in the beautiful countryside around this border town.


Empty Properties Funding Programme 2015
The Nationwide Foundation has launched a new empty properties funding programme to bring long-term empty properties back into use for people in housing need. The Foundation state that "Despite the current housing crisis, the UK has in excess of 200,000 long-term empty homes and many more commercial properties which could be used as homes." The Nationwide Foundation will fund work which turns empty properties into safe, decent homes for people in need and makes them available at a rate they can afford.
The £1 million funding programme is only available to not-for-profit organisations and will close to applications on 1 November 2015. For further details follow this link.

Rural Housing Alliance in demand at conferences
The RHA has run workshops at two recent conferences and been asked to present at another. A workshop at the successful RSN Rural Conference held in Cheltenham on 8 and 9 September 2015 focused on joint working between Housing Associations and local authorities. The session was led by Hastoe, Housing Plus and HARAH along with local authority colleagues from South Staffordshire and Test Valley. Copies of all presentations from the conference are available here.

Still time to respond to review of the Feed-in Tariff scheme
The Feed-in Tariff Scheme is the Government's subsidy scheme for generation of renewable electricity from small-scale installations.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change is consulting on a proposed set of measures to control costs under the Feed-in Tariff, including revised tariffs based on updated technology cost data, a more stringent degression mechanism and deployment caps leading to the phased closure of the scheme in 2018-19. It proposes that if such measures cannot put the scheme on an affordable and sustainable footing then there should be an end to generation tariffs for new applicants as soon as legislatively possible, which government would expect to be January 2016. It also proposes other measures to ensure the scheme is more closely aligned with other DECC policy measures.
This consultation closes on 23 October 2015. You can view more details and respond direct via 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
Housing and External Funding
07872 373191
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