Minister urged to protect affordable rural homes
by Claire McGine, Head of Communications

Housing minister Brandon Lewis has been urged to protect small rural communities from Government proposals which could drastically cut the development of new affordable homes.

Leading rural network ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) says the planned changes to policy will threaten the future of communities in the countryside, where house prices have risen by 82pc in the past 10 years.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is consulting on its proposals to remove section 106 planning obligations, which deliver affordable housing, from sites of fewer than 10 homes.

ACRE, the national voice for England’s 38 rural community councils, says small-scale developers may simply stop building affordable homes if the changes go ahead.

The charity has written to the Minister, calling him to exempt all sites in communities with a population under 3,000.

ACRE chief executive Janice Banks said: “Figures from DCLG show that in 2012/13, 66pc (1,905) of homes in settlements under 3,000 were delivered through Section 106 agreements.

“Clearly, the proposed changes would preventing a significant number of affordable homes being developed each year. This would have a profoundly damaging effect on small, rural communities – threatening their long-term sustainability.

“Affordable housing enables local people to remain in a community where they have families, schools and jobs. It allows people to return to communities where they grew up and it helps sustain local services, including schools, businesses and shops.

“If these changes go ahead, we expect to see developers only building housing at market prices to obtain the greatest profits. There is a major shortage of affordable homes across the UK and Government policies should ensure that more are built, not fewer.

“We are calling on DCLG to make an exception for communities with a population under 3,000. This would give the Minister the opportunity to deliver a policy that works for the right reasons in the right communities whilst avoiding serious damage to affordable housing delivery in small, rural communities.”

Ms Banks said a cross-party bill, which would give local authorities the decision on the most appropriate threshold, was not the answer.

She said: “While we agree that DCLG’s proposals don’t take any local conditions into account, leaving the decision with local authorities will simply result in a postcode lottery. An exemption for small communities is the fairest solution.”

Ends

Media contact: Claire McGine, Head of Communications, 01285 653477 ext 107.

Notes to editors:

  • Section 106 agreements – known as planning obligations - require developers to provide contributions – such as affordable homes or playgrounds, for example - to offset negative impacts caused by construction and development.

  • Rural house prices have risen 82% in 10 years, faster than urban areas. (Simple Average House Price Sales, The Land Registry)

  • In 2011, the average lower quartile house price was 8.3 times the average lower quartile earnings in predominantly rural areas. This compares with 7.1 in predominantly urban areas and 7.3 in England as a whole.

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