A Lifeline in the Countryside: How an Affordable Rural Home Transformed Maria’s Life

Maria, a 57-year-old resident of Kent village, Shepherdswell, had been struggling with the ever-increasing costs of private renting for years. Together with her partner Mike, 61, they were facing an uncertain future when they received a notice from the landlord that they must leave the property, forcing them to find a new place to live. Despite both working tirelessly – Mike putting in six days a week and Maria working part-time – the prospect of continuing to rent privately was a daunting one. As Maria put it, “The last thing you want to do at our age is actually work more just to pay your rent, you know, when you’re already at capacity.”

Desperate for a solution and determined to stay in the village they had grown to love, Maria and Mike applied for an affordable rural home through English Rural, a specialist provider of affordable rural homes dedicated to creating sustainable communities in the countryside. They were overjoyed when they learnt that new homes were being built right in the heart of Shepherdswell. However, to be eligible for one of these much-needed properties, they had to join the housing register. Without hesitation, they did just that.

Maria explained, “We just had to do something […] and when we knew that these homes were being built, in order to get one, we had to be on the housing register.”

On the 14th of March, Maria and Mike’s lives changed forever when they stepped across the threshold of their new affordable home. The security and financial stability provided by their long-term tenancy agreement was an enormous relief, lifting a weight they had carried for far too long.

Maria shared, “Honestly, when you’ve been private renting and every year the rent goes up like £50, £100 a month at the reviews, and then you don’t know whether they’re gonna pull the rug, it’s terrifying.”

Now, they are paying a rent they can afford, which has freed up precious funds to pay off the debt they had accumulated during their time in private renting. With hope in their hearts, Maria and Mike are determined to be debt-free within a couple of years.

But the benefits of their new home extend far beyond the financial. It has given them a newfound sense of security and belonging, a feeling of being truly at home in their community. The ability to stay in the village where they have built a life, forged friendships, and become active members has been incredibly important to them.

“As we’re getting older, having people around us that already know us is really important […] being able to stay where we were rather than having to go somewhere new was really, really good for us,” Maria explained, grateful for the opportunity.

The quality of their new home has also made a significant difference in their day-to-day lives. Coming from an old, draughty rental where they could see their breath in the winter because they couldn’t afford to heat it properly, their new home feels warm and cosy without any heating at all. The higher ceilings and ample natural light make the space feel open and inviting, a far cry from the cramped and tiny living quarters they had grown accustomed to.

Maria’s appreciation for her new home and community is palpable, and it’s clear that she is determined to make the most of this new chapter in their lives. She has already been actively working to foster relationships between the village and the new residents, encouraging the young families to cook from scratch and nurture the herbs she plans to grow in a communal planter. For Maria, it’s about more than just the herbs; it’s about creating a sense of community, teaching people how to live together harmoniously, and building bridges between the old and the new.

When asked what she appreciates most about her home and community, Maria struggled to find the words. “Oh, my goodness…let me think…” She went on to list the financial security, the warmth and energy efficiency of a newly built home, being able to stay in the village close to friends and community groups, and having people around who know them, which is especially important as they get older. But perhaps most importantly, it’s the sense of belonging, the feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves.

Maria’s story is a powerful testament to the transformative impact that affordable rural housing can have on people’s lives. It’s not just about providing a roof over someone’s head; it’s about giving them the security, stability, and sense of community they need to thrive. It’s about creating opportunities for people to put down roots, to build a life, and to contribute to the vitality and sustainability of rural communities.

As Maria so eloquently put it, “It is just so lovely, you know. I’m so grateful.”

Through the efforts of organisations like English Rural, more people like Maria and Mike are able to find a lifeline in the countryside – a place to call home, a community to belong to, and a future to look forward to. These affordable rural homes are more than just bricks and mortar; they are the foundation upon which people can build better lives, not just for themselves, but for generations to come.

As we continue to work towards a fairer and sustainable future for all, stories like Maria’s serve as a powerful reminder of the profound difference that safe, affordable housing can make in people’s lives. They are a testament to the resilience and determination of the human spirit, and to the importance of creating communities where everyone can flourish.

In a world where the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, where the cost of housing is becoming increasingly out of reach for far too many, the work of organisations like English Rural is more important than ever. By providing affordable homes in rural areas, they are not only helping to address the housing crisis, but also preserving the vitality and character of our countryside communities.

As we look to the future, let us be inspired by the stories of people like Maria and Mike, and let us re-double our efforts to create a society where everyone has access to safe, affordable, and sustainable housing. For it is only by working together, by building bridges between communities, and by recognising the fundamental importance of home, that we can hope to build a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

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