Rural Life Monitor 2024: The State of Affordable Housing in Rural England

The recently released Rural Life Monitor 2024 report by the National Housing Federation provides a comprehensive look at the current state of affordable housing in rural England. The report serves as an update to the 2017 edition, examining the issues faced by rural communities today and highlighting the ways in which housing associations are working to address these challenges.

The housing crisis has hit rural areas particularly hard. In 2023, the average house price in England had risen by 57% since 2013 to £290,000, while average earnings rose by just 28% to £35,100. This means that the average house was 8.26 times average earnings in 2023, up from 6.76 times in 2013. The affordability gap is even more pronounced in rural areas, where the average lower quartile house price in 2022 was 8.8 times the average lower quartile earnings, compared to 7.6 in urban areas outside London.

Housing waiting lists have also grown disproportionately in rural areas. Between 2020 and 2023, waiting lists in rural areas increased by 20%, compared to 14% in urban areas. In the countryside, this equates to an additional 34,021 people on waiting lists, rising from 171,171 to 205,192. During the same period, only 7,005 new homes for social rent were completed in these areas.

Homelessness is on the rise nationwide, but it’s increasing at a faster rate in rural communities. In 2021/22, there were 3.7 households per 1,000 accepted as homeless in rural areas. By 2022/23, this had risen to 4.4 households per 1,000, an increase of 0.7. In comparison, urban areas excluding London saw an increase of just 0.1, from 7.0 to 7.1 households per 1,000.

The lack of affordable housing also impacts essential services and businesses in rural communities:

▶️ Between 2018 and 2023, 45 local authority-maintained schools and academies in rural areas closed.
▶️ From 2022 to 2023, the number of post offices in rural areas fell by 1% (53), while increasing in urban areas.
▶️ In the decade leading up to 2022, at least 49 play parks closed in rural areas.
▶️ In 2023, there were 535 fewer pubs and bars in rural areas (6%) compared to 2018.

Despite the challenges, housing associations are working to deliver affordable homes and support local communities. The report features several case studies showcasing the positive impact of these developments, such as:

✅ Coastline Housing’s 19 new affordable homes in Nancegollan, Cornwall, which also provided parking spaces and open space for the village hall.
✅ Two Rivers Housing’s development in Berry Hill, Gloucestershire, offering a mix of social rent and shared ownership homes while preserving the village’s character.
✅ English Rural’s shared ownership home in Kent that enabled a young farming couple to remain close to family and work.
✅ Worthing Homes’ energy-efficient passivhaus development in Fittleworth, West Sussex.
✅ White Horse Housing Association’s partnership with a community land trust to deliver affordable, energy-efficient homes in Seend and Seend Cleeve, Wiltshire.

The Rural Life Monitor 2024 report emphasises the urgent need for more affordable housing in rural England. By highlighting the challenges and showcasing successful initiatives, it calls for a long-term plan to address the housing crisis and revitalise rural communities. Collaboration between housing associations, local authorities, and community groups will be essential in ensuring that rural England remains a vibrant and thriving part of the country.

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