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July 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
Rural Housing Conference and Rural Housing Week 2016 are big hits
Rural Housing Week, coordinated by the National Housing Federation, ran from 11 – 17 July and aimed to raise awareness of the economic and social impact that a lack of affordable housing can have on rural communities. Events took place across the country to support the week with a key focus being the annual national Rural Housing Conference held in London on 12 July.
Chaired by Countryfile's Tom Heap, the 2016 Rural Housing Conference was a sell out. The audience heard from the National Housing Federation's Chief Executive, David Orr, Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe, Councillor Heather Kidd representing the Local Government Association and Baroness Williams of Trafford. Focusing on how to get things done and make a difference, workshop sessions were held covering rural development, community involvement, modern construction techniques and young people. The conference was wrapped with a discussion forum featuring, among others, Lord Taylor of Gossmoor and Jake Berriman, chair of the Rural Housing Alliance.
There was a strong call from the conference to enable social rent to be part of the government's funded affordable homes programme and for the recently imposed threshold of 10 units for private housing schemes before affordable homes are required to be lifted.
Details of all presentations made at the conference will be available shortly on the National Housing Federation website via this link.

Rural Housing Alliance launches new website
The Rural Housing Alliance has launched its own dedicated website with new branding to go with it. With details about all Alliance members, case studies and news, the website provides an easy point of reference for Alliance activities.
The site currently hosts 22 case studies from across the membership covering a range of topic areas. Links to all member websites are also included. The website can be viewed here.

Public Accounts Committee slams right-to-buy extension
The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts has published a report raising a series of questions over the extension of right-to-buy to Housing Association tenants. The summary from the report states the following:

Brexit: survival of the fittest – 2016 National Rural Conference announced
"Making the case for rural" will be the central theme at this year's RSN national rural conference. Taking place in Cheltenham on 6 and 7 September, the conference will offer the opportunity to debate the implications of the EU referendum result on rural England and how best to make the case for rural communities going forward. A diverse line up of speakers has been assembled and you can read more here.

Passivhaus comes to Warwickshire
The development of Warwickshire's first Passivhaus scheme moved an important step closer this month when the official start on site event took place during Rural Housing Week. The theme for Rural Housing Week was innovation and Warwickshire Rural Housing Association (WRHA) invited local councillors to view the development site in Wootton Wawen and learn more about the techniques and technologies of Passivhaus for ultra-low energy buildings.
Passivhaus or 'passive house' principles involve creating a building which is as energy efficient as possible to reduce its ecological footprint. By using superior levels of insulation and air tightness, and orienting the homes to maximise solar gain, the aim is to achieve space heating costs which are 70 per cent less than in standard house construction.

Couple settle into dream home during Rural Housing Week
Gill and Steve Dimelow thought they would never get back on the housing ladder until they heard about a new development by Stafford and Rural Homes.
Set in the heart of the Staffordshire Countryside, Osborne Park includes a number of properties that are available for shared ownership and they're now providing the ideal solution for many people who would otherwise be priced out of the housing market. Gill and Steve were both divorcees when they met, and although they had been homeowners in the past, they thought they would never be in the position to buy a home together.
"We are both in our 50s and thought we would be too old to get a mortgage and resigned ourselves to living in private rental accommodation with all the uncertainty that brings," explained Gill, who works as a Medical Secretary at Stafford Hospital.
"We had never considered shared ownership until my son-in-law told us of his experience of a similar scheme in Stoke and how it had helped him onto the property ladder. When we heard about an open day here at Osborne Park we thought we would have a look around and just a few months later we are settling in nicely into our new home!"

Third phase of Northamptonshire development underway
Councillors joined Northamptonshire Rural Housing Association (NRHA) in celebrating Rural Housing Week with a special event at its new development in Braunston yesterday. Phase 3 of NRHA's development at Maple Close is currently underway and will bring an additional 12 much needed homes to the village. Pam Booker, Tenant Representative on the NRHA Board, welcomed councillors from Daventry District Council and Braunston Parish Council, along with staff from emh homes and NRHA to the site in Braunston to explain what a difference affordable housing is making for the local community.

Freebridge goes ‘Out & About’ in support of Rural Housing Week
Freebridge Community Housing supported the National Housing Federations' Rural Housing Week by sending staff to visit some of their more rural tenants on 15 July.
Freebridge are responsible for around 7000 homes spread over 550 square miles and some of their more isolated properties face unique difficulties around communication and transport.
The 'Out & About' programme allows Freebridge employees to meet tenants in their own homes, carry out minor repairs, listen to any concerns or queries people may have and make sure that contact details are up to date.

New Housing Association partners for HARAH
Hampshire parishes celebrated national Rural Housing Week with the Hampshire Alliance for Rural Affordable Housing (HARAH) by welcoming new housing associations to the HARAH partnership.
Since 2005 the HARAH partnership has successfully delivered 392 new affordable homes in villages across the county, providing homes for 1,400 local people. HARAH is made up of six Hampshire Local Authorities, the County Council, two National Park Authorities, Action Hampshire, and the Homes and Communities Agency.

Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) consultation
HNIP aims to provide £320m of capital support to increase the volume of heat networks being built, deliver carbon savings, and help create the conditions necessary for a self-sustaining heat network market to develop.
DECC (the Department of Energy & Climate Change) are seeking views from current and potential heat network sponsors, investors, supply chain, and any other stakeholders with views on how best to use the capital support funding to overcome barriers to investment in heat networks and increase heat network deployment rates. They invite views on the organisations and types of schemes that should be eligible for investment support, what form this funding should take, and the criteria that should be used to assess applications for funding.
This consultation closes on 3 August 2016 and can be viewed via this link.

Energy Company Obligation (ECO): Help to Heat consultation
The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is a programme to deliver energy efficiency measures in homes across Great Britain in order to reduce carbon emissions and improve the ability of low income and vulnerable consumers to heat their homes to comfortable levels. ECO was launched in January 2013 and is currently in its second obligation period, which is due to end on 31 March 2017. The Government's Spending Review 2015 announced plans for a supplier obligation to run for 5 years from April 2017 at an estimated level of £640 million per year.
This current consultation seeks views on proposed changes to ECO for 2017-18 and aspects of the high level design for a longer term supplier obligation (2018-22). The consultation closes on 17 August 2016. You can read more here.

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 APPG in November last year looked at shared ownership in rural communities. 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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