National Housing Federation (NHF) warn that a severe lack of affordable homes in the most rural parts of England is essentially pricing young people out of area, resulting in the countryside becoming reserved for wealthy pensioners.
A new analysis of population trends reveals the number of pensioners is set to soar across England’s rural communities by 2021, as younger generations who aspire to ‘grow up and grow old’ in rural villages and towns can’t get a foot on the local property ladder.
The National Housing Federation has released a list of the country’s top ‘pensioner pockets’ where more than 40%, or four in every 10 households, will be over 65 in just six years’ time, considerably higher than the predicated national average of 29%.
Out of these 27 ageing districts of England just two are urban, setting alarm bells ringing that the idea of a living, working countryside is at risk of disappearing.
According to the analysis, the countryside district of West Somerset, famous as an area of outstanding natural beauty, will officially be England’s oldest place by 2021 with nearly half of its households (47%) of pensioner age.
Disproportionately ageing populations is just one of the symptoms of the chronic housing crisis in rural England according to the National Housing Federation. With the cost of buying a home in 90% of rural areas costing eight times the average salary, and wages languishing below the national average, many workers and young families are being priced out of the villages and towns where they grew up. This mounting crisis is putting pressure on small businesses that can’t find local workers, schools in places where families have had to move away and health and support services needed to care for ageing communities.
The stark figures, compiled for Rural Housing Week, also uncover the top 20 areas in England where the population of elderly people over 75 will increase the most by 2021. 18 places on the list are rural districts, with Lichfield, South Staffordshire and Wyre Forest topping the list, highlighting the strain these hotspots are facing in the years to come.
The National Housing Federation is calling for more new homes in rural districts, planned at a local level so they genuinely meet local need, to ensure these communities can thrive for generations to come.
Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, David Orr said “Our idealistic view of the English countryside is fast becoming extinct. Workers and families aspiring to live, work and grow up in the countryside can’t find homes they can afford. If we don’t build more homes, these places will become ‘pensioner pockets’ rather than the thriving, working communities they can be.”
“All it would take to deal with the acute housing crisis in rural areas is a handful of high quality, affordable new homes in our villages or market towns.”
“The Government has committed to ending this housing crisis within a generation. To make this happen across the country now it must free up land and provide proper investment in affordable housing.”