Rural Housing Enablers (RHEs) work to secure affordable housing for local people in rural communities. This provides life changing opportunities for local families, and at the same time, helps to sustain rural communities by supporting local services such as schools, shops and pubs. RHEs were ‘invented’ over twenty years ago and have a strong track record of delivering community-led rural affordable housing. Most operate within a specific county, but you can find RHEs in many parts of the country.
In this guest post, Louise Williams, a Rural and Community Led Housing Enabler working with Community Action Surrey, describes a typical ‘day in the life’ of a RHE:
“It’s the usual start to the day: checking emails and messages before heading off to meet with one of the local authorities I work in partnership with. I work with four local authorities, and although we have regular partnership meetings where we all meet up, having a catch up on a one-to-one basis is always helpful as each local authority works differently, has different priorities and policies and procedures. After so long meeting on Zoom, it’s great to be able to meet in person!
With the meeting finished, I head off back to the office and as I travel up the A3 I am reminded of one of the first facts I learnt when I came to Surrey – almost 25% of Surrey is covered in woodland and the views from the A3 are stunning especially this time of year with all the autumn colours.
Back at the office to finish preparing for an evening Parish Council meeting before heading out again. This time to a site visit for a new scheme in Brockham, near Dorking. This is a wonderful development of 12 homes which will be available to rent at social rent levels and five self-build plots. They are being built by a small local housing charity, The Poland Trust, on a rural exception site where a local landowner gifted the land. It’s great to see the homes being built after almost 10 years of trying to find a suitable site. Hopefully by next summer, they will be occupied with fabulous views to be had by all residents.
Back to the office again before heading out to the final visit of the day, this time to Pirbright Parish Council to talk to them about undertaking a housing needs survey. It’s been almost 10 years since the last survey and land opportunities around the village are very scarce. The Parish Council are really welcoming and have a very positive approach towards not just the survey but the follow up work to try to find a suitable site. What has made my job easier here is that the local authority are helping out with the survey costs.
All-in-all, a busier than usual day but it’s so nice to be getting out and seeing like-minded people again which is so motivating.”
Louise Williams, Rural and Community Led Housing Enabler
Surrey Community Action