An Affordable Housing Crisis in the Surrey Hills

“Research showed that house values are 23 times average income”

SURREY, UK (September 24th, 2019) – A new report commissioned by English Rural and supported by Strutt & Parker revealed that properties within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are, on average: –

  • 34% more expensive than those in surrounding areas, and
  • Almost 23 times the average household income

The report entitled ‘The Surrey Hills: A Case for Affordable Rural Housing’ was launched at English Rural’s Affordable Housing Conference and hosted at the Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey. The research focused on the 42 rural parishes that lie wholly or partly within the Surrey Hills AONB – the most expensive of the 46 English AONBs in which to buy a home.

The research found that only 14% of properties in the Surrey Hills are in the lowest three council tax bands and around 660 (2%) affordable homes need to be built to meet current local housing need across the 42 rural parishes. Building to meet just half the need would equate to 330 homes – 8 in each parish. The report also highlights that the consequences of not meeting the housing needs of residents are significant for individuals, for the future viability of communities, and for the local economy.

Like many rural areas, villages in the Surrey Hills are affected by higher than average property prices and lower than average wages, making it impossible for many local households to afford to rent or buy a home in their local community, alongside family and support networks. As an AONB, the tighter planning rules mean new supply is limited and this has intensified the affordable housing crisis. Meanwhile, the nature of the housing stock, which leans towards large, detached properties, drives demand among up-sizers and families relocating from London attracted by the space, excellent schooling and attractive countryside. The research also highlights the lack of opportunity for older households to move to better designed and smaller accommodation.

Essential local services in rural areas, such as schools, shops and pubs, are increasingly at risk of closing where villages have suffered from lack of investment in new affordable homes. Without access to an affordable home it is difficult for local households, particularly families, to remain. This is also shown to put the long-term sustainability of the local economy at risk.

English Rural has a strong track-record of working in partnership with communities in rural areas to deliver homes that meet local housing need. Parish level housing surveys make sure community needs and priorities are understood. The community is involved throughout the design process so that the homes reflect the aspirations and sensitivities of local people, as well as the surrounding landscape. Building affordable rural homes enables local households to remain within the communities they have often been in for generations, and this in turn supports rural services by allowing them to remain open.

Commenting on the report, English Rural’s Chief Executive, Martin Collett said:

“The consequences of a lack of affordable homes in the Surrey Hills reach far beyond just the housing market – impacting on individual households, particularly young families. The viability of rural communities, and the sustainability of local business also depends on communities housing a range of age groups and income earners. For rural communities to thrive, we believe local people deserve to live in high-quality, well-managed homes that are comfortable, safe, and affordable. This report shows that the Surrey Hills has a well-evidenced need for affordable homes and that we need to work together with Local Authorities, Parish Councils and importantly the local community to build a legacy for the future of villages that provide opportunities beyond housing.”

Georgia Kirby-Watt, Associate Director or Land Management at Strutt & Parker said:

“The Surrey Hills faces unique challenges of affordability as locals face competition from both London commuters and second homeowners seeking a piece of this picturesque landscape for their own. AONB house prices carry some of the highest premiums in relation to average earnings nationwide, with local people being forced out as a result. Rural attitudes towards affordable housing are now overwhelmingly positive as communities recognise that it provides an important role in preserving the character and vibrancy of commuter belt, dormitory towns. The time for collaboration with the community is now.”

The research was launched at English Rural’s Affordable Housing Conference at Denbies Wine Estate on Tuesday 24th September 2019. The conference brought together a variety of stakeholders on affordable rural housing issues and covered topics such as rural housing challenges, conservation, the rural economy, working with local communities and resident perspectives. Speakers included: –

Clive Smith, Planning Adviser, Surrey Hills AONB
Caroline Dibden, Vice-Chairman, CPRE Hampshire
Georgia Kirby-Watt, Associate Director (Land Management), Strutt & Parker
Louise Williams, Rural Housing Enabler for Surrey
Andrew Smith, Head of Housing Delivery and Communities, Waverley Borough Council
Pauline Rose, English Rural Resident

To read the full report, visit: https://englishrural.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/English-Rural-Surrey-Hills-Report.pdf

English Rural is a Registered Social Landlord, established in 1991 to provide affordable rural homes for local people. Homes built by English Rural are community-led, meet local needs and help to maintain sustainable rural communities.

It currently owns and manages around 1,250 affordable properties, spread amongst 130 UK villages, and has a development programme of over 250 additional homes.

Surrey Hills is a 422km2 AONB which covers one quarter of the county of Surrey. The AONB was designated in 1958 and has equal landscape status and protection to a national park. The area is characterised by a high predominance of woodland, with 40% of the land having woodland cover, of which 14% is ancient woodland. Overall, 18% of land is designated as ‘heath and commons’, and 25% of land is open access.

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Photographs from the event can be found here, but you must credit ‘Matt Pereira Photography‘ if you use them.

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