Chancellor George Osborne and Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss announced yesterday that the government’s starter homes scheme would be extended to rural areas; the first move of a new 10-point rural productivity plan. But will they be more affordable?
The plans outlined by the government will undoubtedly boost housing numbers in rural areas and also intend to widen the 20% discount scheme for new home buyers. However, experts have suggested that the efforts will do nothing to tackle the increasing expensiveness of owning a little place in the countryside.
Osborne claimed that factors such as increased access to internet broadband in the countryside and the desire to escape the cities for a quieter life has resulted in the migration of over 60,000 people a year to rural areas across the UK.
The ministers said “In a recent survey of rural businesses the main barrier to growth that most identified was planning restrictions. So for a start, we’ll review rules around agricultural buildings such as barns to allow rural businesses to expand more easily.”
“If we are going to attract and maintain a dynamic workforce, we need to make it easier for people to stay in their rural communities and for newcomers to settle there too. We’ll always want to protect our green belt and beautiful natural environments, but the lack of housing in rural areas is a scandal.”
“So we will reform planning laws, making it easier for villages to establish their own neighbourhood plan and allocate land for a small number of new homes.”
Though the admission that rural housing pressures are a significant issue was welcomed, the government was warned by experts that
Some people are sceptical about the announcement, arguing that slashing prices for some buyers was not enough to fully tackle the issue of affordability. Deputy Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Gavin Smart responded “Extending the starter homes scheme will help some people, but we do have some concerns about how the 20% discount will be achieved.”
“Rural areas need more homes of all tenures, not just for home ownership – we think exempting areas with a population of fewer than 3,000 people from right to buy would help protect the dwindling supply of affordable homes in rural communities.”
The Labour Shadow Local Government Minister, Steve Reed echoed concerns, saying "The government says it wants to build starter homes in rural areas but it seems these will replace affordable homes to buy and rent. Starter homes should be additional to affordable housing supply not instead of it.”
"In many rural areas buying or renting a home has become increasingly unaffordable. Yet the government has undermined the provision of affordable housing at every step by watering down requirements on developers to build new affordable homes."
John Rowley, the planning officer at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), supports the announcement for creating more good quality homes, commenting "The proposals set out in the Rural Productivity Plan risk alienating local communities and reducing the amount of affordable housing in rural areas. The government’s suggestion that young families will be able to afford houses at even 20% discount will not ring true in many low-waged rural economies.”
“Rural housing should be provided to meet identified local need. It’s likely that commuters will be able to outbid local families. And the 20% discount which the purchaser of the property will benefit from will not remain in perpetuity. The result will be that there is no incentive for local people to support this type of development.”
“The proposed extension to the Right to Buy to include housing association properties will also add to this problem. Rural areas should be exempted from the extension to Right to Buy in order to protect the already dwindling stock of affordable homes available."