Housing prices force local people to leave

By Farnham Herald in Community News

AN annual household income of around £115,000 per year is now needed to buy the average home in Waverley, the borough council has revealed as part of its support for Rural Housing Week (July 3 to 7).

Led by the National Housing Federation, the aim of Rural Housing Week is to show how ‘affordable’ housing is vital to enable young households to stay in rural areas and sustain local services like schools, post offices and pubs.

Rural prices are typically around 26 per cent higher than their urban-equivalents - making home ownership even more difficult for many and threatening the very fabric of rural communities.

Responding, Waverley Borough Council has backed calls for more affordable housing to be built in the borough, and has pledged to increase the current level of housing supply in rural communities by six per cent per year for each of the next five years.

Most ‘affordable’ homes are either rented or shared ownership, where the customer can part-buy and part-rent. New affordable homes in rural areas are usually reserved for people with a genuine connection to the local community.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “Far too few homes are being built for local people across rural England and communities are disappearing as a result.

“Right across rural England, schools are shutting their doors to pupils. Post offices, which provide vital community services, are closing at a similar rate. And countless pubs are serving their last ever orders to locals.

“New affordable housing breathes life into a rural community. It offers a lifeline to a young family who would otherwise be priced out of an area they’ve known all their lives. It brings new customers and job opportunities to help keep open a local shop or pub.”

Carole King, Waverley’s portfolio holder for housing, added: “Without new affordable homes in rural areas, young people have to find homes elsewhere, to the detriment of the future of the communities they leave.”

Waverley says high house prices, low wages, seasonal jobs, an ageing population and high levels of second home ownership all add pressure on rural communities, while local services and the rural economy also suffer with local employers struggling to fill lower paid jobs.

However, the council believes affordable housing can help to reverse these trends by providing “decent homes that local people can afford”, and it has endorsed the National Housing Federation’s Five Star Plan. This plan commits the council to:

• Work with and for rural communities, in accordance with the Rural Alliance pledge.

• Increase the current level of housing supply in rural communities by six per cent per year for each of the next five years.

• Bid for at least 10 per cent of HCA investment to deliver new homes in rural areas.

• Ensure that homes delivered benefit the local economy, including the farming and food economy.

• Meet the needs of rural communities and contribute towards five key tenures, as appropriate – homes for affordable rent, market rent, affordable home ownership, self-build and market sale.

Mrs King continued: “I welcome the Housing Federation’s Five Star Plan, co-created with Housing Associations, to deliver new affordable homes in rural areas and Waverley will be playing its part to help keep our rural communities together.”

• Rural Housing Week also coincided with Waverley’s own Housing Strategy Consultation to set new housing priorities for the coming five years.

The borough council is encouraging all residents to complete the survey whether they own their own homes, rent in the private or public sector or are living with friends or family.

Waverley would also like to hear from housing providers, developers, landowners and anyone with an interest in housing in the borough.

The survey can be found online at www.waverley.gov.uk\housingsurvey.

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