GUEST BLOG – Addressing the Rural Premium: Tackling Unique Housing Challenges in UK’s Rural Communities

We’re excited to feature a guest post by Avril Roberts, Property and Business Policy Adviser from the CLA, who will share insights from the APPG’s report on the cost-of-living crisis in rural areas. Avril will discuss key findings and recommendations related to the unique challenges faced by the rural housing sector. Join us as we explore these issues and potential solutions for building thriving, sustainable rural environments.

Avril Roberts, Property and Business Policy Adviser, CLA

In the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, rural communities across the UK are facing unique challenges within the housing sector. The All-Party Parliamentary Group’s (APPG) latest report, “The Rural Premium: Exploring the Impact of the Cost-of-Living Crisis in Rural Areas” investigates these challenges and offers recommendations to address them. In this post, we’ll summarise the key findings of the report, focusing specifically on the rural housing sector.

Rural Premium: Rural communities already face a “rural premium” due to additional cost-of-living burdens; this becomes more pronounced during an economic crisis. This premium has long been absorbed by rural businesses and communities, masking the underlying structural issues holding back the rural economy.

Energy Efficiency and Heating Costs: Rural housing tends to be less energy-efficient due to the age and construction of buildings, leading to higher energy costs for residents. Additionally, these residents often pay more for heating because of limited access to the gas grid, relying on alternative and often more expensive heating sources. The report recommends extending energy support for off-gas grid properties to match the support provided to urban domestic users.

Local Government Settlement Formula and Rural Housing Strategy: To address long-standing structural biases in policymaking, the report suggests revising the Local Government Settlement Formula. It also calls for the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) to provide a rural housing strategy that considers the unique challenges faced by rural communities.

The recent APPG report follows on from one of the most comprehensive inquiries into the rural economy in 2022. That inquiry produced a report into Rural Productivity and found a number of areas for improvement which the cost-of-living inquiry and recent report reiterated.

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF): The 2022 APPG report on rural productivity recommended amending the NPPF to favour small housing developments in rural areas, with an emphasis on affordable housing. This would help address the lack of affordable housing options in rural communities and promote sustainable development.

Conditional Exemption for Affordable Housing: The same report also urged the government to extend conditional exemption to encourage the delivery of affordable housing in local communities. This policy change would incentivise landowners to provide land for affordable housing projects, benefiting rural residents in need of affordable homes.

Connectivity and Access to Services: Rural residents often face challenges in accessing services and amenities due to limited public transportation and distance from urban centres. Improving connectivity and access to services could help alleviate some of the difficulties faced by rural residents, indirectly contributing to a better housing situation.

In conclusion, the APPG’s latest report sheds light on the multifaceted challenges and potential solutions facing the rural housing sector in the UK. By addressing these issues through targeted policy changes and improvements in infrastructure and connectivity, there can be thriving and sustainable rural communities. You can ready the full report and recommendations here.

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