GUEST BLOG – Landowners: The Solution for Affordable Rural Housing in England

We’re thrilled to feature Avril Roberts, Property and Business Policy Adviser at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), as our guest writer during Rural Housing Week 2023. In this insightful piece, Avril delves into the rural housing crisis in England, underscoring the crucial role landowners can play. Join us as we explore her rich insights and innovative solutions for a sustainable rural future.

Landowners: The Solution for Affordable Rural Housing in England

As Property and Business Policy Adviser at the CLA, I see day to day the crucial role that landowners can play in the development of rural housing in England.

The Rural Housing Challenge

In the heart of the English countryside, there is a pressing need for affordable housing. Rural communities, which are the lifeblood of our nation, are facing a significant challenge – the lack of affordable homes for local people. This issue is not only threatening the social fabric of these communities but also their very existence.

The Role of Landowners

One of the key solutions to this problem lies in the hands of landowners. They are in a unique position to make a significant contribution to the development of affordable rural housing. By making land available for housing, they can help to ensure that rural communities remain vibrant and sustainable.

English Rural, one of the leading rural housing associations in England, often partner with landowners to bring forward land for affordable housing. One example being a Kent landowner who made land available after seeing difficulties in his local community with access to housing. Relationships like these are key to the delivery of rural housing, and the CLA also has a role to play in facilitating these.

The Unique Challenges of Rural Housing

In a previous guest blog post on English Rural’s website, I discussed the unique challenges faced by the rural housing sector. There is the ‘rural premium’, the additional cost-of-living burdens faced by rural communities, and the need for energy-efficient housing and improved connectivity and access to services.

My blog post also highlighted the need for policy changes to support the development of affordable rural housing. This includes revising the Local Government Settlement Formula and providing a rural housing strategy that considers the unique challenges faced by rural communities. It also includes amending the National Planning Policy Framework to favour small housing developments in rural areas and creating a conditional inheritance tax exemption to encourage the delivery of affordable housing in local communities.

The Benefits to Landowners

While the primary motivation for many landowners is to support their local communities, there are also tangible benefits to them. By providing land for affordable housing and ensuring the long-term sustainability of their local communities, this can, in turn, contribute to the stability and sustainability of their own operations.

Furthermore, by working with housing associations and local authorities, landowners can gain valuable experience and knowledge about the planning and development process. This can be beneficial for future projects.

The Need for New Incentives

Despite the potential benefits, there are significant barriers to landowners providing affordable housing. These include the investment of capital required, the slow return on investment, potential local opposition, and the complexity of the planning system.

To overcome these barriers, we need to think of new ways to incentivise landowners. This could include financial incentives, such as tax breaks or grants, for the provision of land for affordable housing. The CLA has called for a conditional inheritance tax exemption for affordable homes as long as they remain as such, this would encourage more landowners to retain homes as affordable across generations.

In addition to financial incentives, we also need to consider non-financial incentives. This could include providing support and guidance to landowners throughout the planning and development process. This could help to reduce the complexity and uncertainty associated with the provision of affordable housing.

A Call to Action

The development of affordable rural housing is a complex and challenging issue. However, with the right support and incentives, landowners can play a crucial role in addressing this issue. They have the potential to make a significant contribution to the sustainability and vitality of rural communities in England.

As we move forward, we need to continue to explore and implement new ways to incentivise and support landowners in the provision of affordable rural housing. We also need to recognise and celebrate their contributions and encourage more landowners to get involved.

By working together, we can help to ensure that rural communities in England remain vibrant and sustainable places to live, work and thrive.

In conclusion, the role of landowners in the provision of affordable rural housing in England cannot be overstated. They are the unsung heroes of rural communities, providing a lifeline to those who would otherwise be unable to afford to live in the areas they call home. It is time their contributions were recognised, and we work together to support and incentivise them in their efforts. The future of our rural communities depends on it.

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