Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 09:08 UK

Rural housing shortage 'worsens'

A rural village
Many first-time buyers cannot afford property in rural areas in England

The number of people waiting for affordable housing in rural areas has increased by more than a third over the past five years, figures suggest.

About 700,000 people were waiting for a home, 37% more than in 2003, the National Housing Federation and the Campaign to Protect Rural England said.

They warned communities faced an uncertain future unless the lack of affordable housing was addressed.

The government said it was "determined" to help people gain home ownership.

The two campaigning groups have produced a charter outlining how the supply of affordable housing could be increased, including building homes in every village and rural town where need has been identified.

While in 2003 there were 507,757 waiting for an affordable home in country areas, by last year there were 695,735 waiting, according to the figures.

Meanwhile, the proportion of homeless households in rural areas has more than doubled from 16% of the national total in 2003 to 37% in 2008.

Acute problem

Some areas of the country are suffering particularly acutely, with at least 11% of local people on waiting lists in four rural districts in south west England.

House prices are more than 15 times local earnings in Dorset, where one in 30 properties is a second home. Waiting lists in the country have doubled during the past five years, say the groups.

They want the government to ensure a fair share of future spending on social housing is spent on providing affordable rural homes.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

The groups want restrictions on the rights of outsiders to buy social housing where there is an acute shortage of homes.

They have also called on rural planning authorities to set ambitious but achievable targets for affordable homes.

Federation chief executive David Orr said: "The rural housing crisis is intensifying rapidly, with more and more people being priced out of the market and having to live in cramped and unsuitable conditions.

"Without urgent action by ministers many of our villages are in danger of becoming the preserve of the rich, and weekend playgrounds for second home owners, with schools, pubs and post offices at risk of closing because of a lack of customers."

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of the CPRE, said the future looked bleak unless action was taken immediately.

He said: "Today's challenging housing market highlights the need for public investment to ensure rural communities receive a fair share so that they can have the homes they need."

Housing Minister Caroline Flint said communities often opposed house building in their areas, which was contributing to the lack of supply.

She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "It's something I've been talking about particularly over the last six months in relation to why we need potentially eco towns to add to our supply of housing in rural areas."

The Department for Communities and Local Government said it had already welcomed the report by Mr Taylor.

A spokesman said: "We agree it's simply not fair that people in rural communities struggle to afford a place of their own.

"This is why we are determined that we do everything we can to further help them into home ownership.

"We have already changed the planning rules; are helping landowners to establish community land trusts and ensuring councils deliver the sustainable homes their communities need."


SEE ALSO
Experiences of rural life
23 Jul 08 |  UK
Poverty 'blights 1m rural homes'
03 Mar 08 |  England

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