English Rural and CPRE are urging the government to invest £12.8bn in affordable homes for key workers based in rural areas.
Private rents are rising in many rural locations, putting housing out of the reach of rural key workers according to a report by CPRE and English Rural. Their findings were released at the beginning of Rural Housing Week (6-10 July) which aims to shine a spotlight on critical rural housing issues and celebrate successful schemes that address them.
Key findings include the fact that 96% of rural areas are now unaffordable for key workers, meaning that private rent would cost 35% or more of their post-tax income.
CPRE and Rural England conclude that key workers living in the areas they serve are even more critical in rural locations that are poorly served by transport links.
Unaffordable private rents
The report reveals that rents are unaffordable for 96% of care workers and 93% of hospital porters. 86% of farm workers are priced out of the rural areas they work in, together with 67% of bus and coach drivers. The situation is better for nurses, but over a quarter find rents unaffordable in rural areas.
Average social rents remain affordable for these groups in most rural local authorities. The problem is that the growing backlog of demand for housing would take more than 150 years to clear in many areas.
More affordable homes
The analysis of the report is clear that, without affordable housing in the affected areas, rural communities will suffer without the support of key workers. Frontline workers have been the undisputed heroes of the lockdown, working tirelessly in extremely difficult circumstances. If they're priced out of rural locations, that further threatens the resilience of the local communities they serve.
According to Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the government has an unparalleled opportunity to invest in affordable homes that situate critical workers at the very heart of their communities. Such stimulus would also reinvigorate build rates for rurally located social housing. CPRE and Rural England are calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make £12.8bn available to support rural areas and provide a big boost to the national economy with an affordable homes scheme.
A rural renaissance
Martin Collett, chief executive of English Rural, noted that rural communities have proved remarkably resilient throughout lockdown and that many villages had pivoted to new ways of serving the community. It's that sense of a rural renaissance in the new normal that the report seeks to foster.
English Rural are calling on other Rural Housing Associations to make the case for improved investment in rural homes. In the case of English Rural, their small scale developments are always created in partnership with local communities and designed to stimulate the local economy by creating jobs, comfortable and affordable homes for local workers and customers for local businesses.
These developments also keep communities and families intact and support the kind of low income key workers who have been rightly recognised throughout the pandemic. As Collett points out, "Without homes, there are no people. And without people, there are no communities."