Sue Chalkley, Chief Executive of Hastoe Housing Association, said:
Like many colleagues from across the housing industry, I
have been waiting patiently for the arrival of the Government’s much-heralded
Housing White Paper. As the largest specialist provider of rural homes, Hastoe wanted
the White Paper to recognise that 20% of our population lives in rural
communities and understand that rural communities needs rural specific
solutions if they are to thrive and be
places where people can afford to live.
Today we finally got the chance to see the Government’s proposals.
So, what does Hastoe think of them?
Firstly, what a welcome change it is to see a White Paper at
all! It’s a welcome return to this more considered approach. It was also good
to see so many MPs in the House of Commons for the Secretary of State’s
announcement. The numbers participating in the debate that followed, showed
that, rightly, MPs across the country realise the need for change.
For understandable reasons much of the White Paper will help
raise supply of new homes in urban areas – including by upping the density of
development. It proposes making better use of “suitable” brownfield sites and underused
land, and to enable high-quality estate regeneration. It focuses on quantity.
There is welcome news for rural homes too. Our villages need
5,000 more homes each year – a shortfall that is pricing younger people and
families out of our villages, distorting the rural demographic and the cause of
many closed local schools and other facilities – a irreversible trend. To
tackle this, the White Paper includes proposals to encourage small builders, who
are far more likely to want to build on small rural sites and will build the
quality homes that they, as local contractors, and the village will be proud of
for years to come. It also understands the contribution that housing
associations can make to the national housing problem although we await further
detail of what financial support will be provided.
It also says it will give “much stronger support for ‘rural
exception’ sites”, which is very welcome. Rural exception sites are sites on
the edge of villages, made available for small-scale house building on the
proviso that the homes are for local people and will be affordable in
perpetuity. That these sites exist at all is usually thanks to the generosity
of rural landowners, who gift or sell the land to a housing association at a low
price. Around one fifth of all rural affordable homes last year were built on rural
exception sites – making a vital contribution to rural housing supply. Most importantly though these sites are led
by the community – true community-led development. These are schemes which provide the community
and the landowners with a good experience and one which often leads to a
request for a second, third or even forth scheme deleivered in the same
way. This is development done the right
way round and led by the people who need it.
We do think that the Government could go further, and
support landowners to release more sites for affordable homes. We have now been
involved in two conferences for rural landowners, the most recent in the South
Downs National Park. Both were
oversubscribed – many landowners want to make a contribution to their communities and understand the desperate need
for affordable housing. We must do more
to incentivise this new source of rural homes
We are also concerned about the mention of Starter Homes
again in connection with rural exception sites. Rural communities were given an exemption from these in the Housing and
Planning Act after much debate so it is a shame that this has returned
again. The White Paper suggests that building
Starter Homes could be “acceptable” on these sites and we will be seeking clarification
on this. And, small sites must have some affordable homes built on them.
Currently sites of fewer than 10 units don’t need any affordable homes – a
loophole that is closing off two thirds of the supply of rural affordable
In closing, it’s worth bearing in mind that rural areas are
very different to urban areas, with very different economic, social and
demographic characteristics. The specific
needs of rural areas are often overlooked or misunderstood by policy-makers –
resulting in policy and legislation that is wholly unsuitable for rural
communities. So we will be responding to the consultation, to ensure that the
voice of rural England is heard.
-ENDS-Notes to Editors
more information please contact Tom Platt on 020 8973 0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Group is the leading rural affordable housing specialist and
operates on a not-for-profit basis, with four subsidiaries (Hastoe Homes,
Sustainable Homes, Hastoe Wyvern and Hastoe Capital plc). Hastoe owns and
manages over 7,000 homes in southern England for affordable housing through
letting and shared ownership. Half of these homes are in rural areas. Hastoe
works closely with its residents to ensure it provides sustainable homes in
sustainable communities. Further information
can be found at: www.hastoe.com
We deliver homes that people can afford
We invest in people and communities
We are in it
for the long-term.