On the evening of Tuesday, 28th November 2023, the historic Cholmondeley Room and Terrace at the House of Lords was alive with critical discussion on affordable rural housing. Hosted by CPRE – The Countryside Charity (CPRE), this reception was not just a gathering of influential figures but a momentous occasion marking the release of their groundbreaking report, ‘The State of Rural Affordable Housing’.
The event featured a compelling line-up of speakers, each bringing a unique perspective to the table. Baroness Hayman of Ullock opened the session, setting the stage for the evening’s discussions. Roger Mortlock, the Chief Executive of CPRE, laid the groundwork for understanding the complexities of rural housing challenges. Pauline Rose, an English Rural resident who has personally benefited from affordable rural housing, shared her impactful story, emphasising the real-life implications of policy and practice. Alongside these voices were influential figures like Clive Betts MP and social housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa, each adding depth to the dialogue.
The centrepiece of the evening was the unveiling of CPRE’s report, which presented a stark picture of the current state of affordable rural housing. The research highlighted several critical issues:
➡️ Housing Affordability Crisis: The report revealed a significant disparity between rural house prices and incomes, with average rural house prices (£418,400) being sixteen times greater than average rural earnings (£25,600).
➡️ Social Housing Backlog: It would take nearly 89 years to clear the current rural social housing waiting list of over 306,730 people, based on the present rate of social rent delivery.
➡️ Inadequate Affordable Housing Delivery: Of the ‘affordable’ housing units delivered in 2021/22, only a small fraction were for social rent, raising concerns about the effectiveness of current housing policies.
➡️ Rising Homelessness and Short-Term Lets: The report also pointed out a 16% increase in rural homelessness since 2021/22 and a surge in short-term lets, which further exacerbate the housing crisis in rural areas.
In response to these findings, CPRE put forth several key recommendations, advocating for:
✅ A redefinition of ‘affordable housing’ to align with local incomes.
✅ An update and increase in the minimum requirement for affordable housing in national planning policy.
✅ Greater support for rural communities in using neighbourhood planning and rural exception sites for affordable housing.
✅ Enforcement of design standards and regulations on second homes and short-term lets.
CPRE’s commitment to advocating for sustainable, accessible, and nature-rich countryside shone throughout the event. Their work, deeply rooted in almost a century of advocacy, demonstrates a relentless pursuit of solutions that benefit both rural communities and the environment.
The CPRE event at the House of Lords was a poignant reminder of the challenges facing rural housing in England. It was a night of not just discussions but a call for action, underscoring the urgency of bridging the gap between rural housing needs and availability. The insights shared and the research presented provide a roadmap for policymakers, communities, and organisations like English Rural to collaboratively forge a path towards a sustainable and equitable rural future.