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Affordable Rural Housingrural housing

Affordable Rural Housing is housing provided in rural parishes where there is a need from people on lower incomes who are unable to meet their housing needs in the general housing market.

If there is evidence of a housing need, shared ownership properties and/or rented homes may be provided by a Housing Association (Registered Social Landlord, or RSL). The RSL is able to provide housing at affordable levels as they receive grant funding from the Homes & Communities Agency towards the development costs.

Depending on local needs, some of the affordable homes may be for social rent (at a weekly rent that is affordable to people on low incomes); while others may be made available for sale on shared ownership terms (usually with a mortgage requirement of around half their market value). Shared ownership or sometimes fixed equity homes may be provided, which are partly owned by the RSL and partly purchased by the resident (usually with a mortgage). In the case of shared ownership, the resident will also have to pay rent on the part owned by the RSL. For fixed equity schemes, the resident does not pay any rental share initially, but may have to start paying rent after a period, usually 3 years. Both schemes require the purchaser to obtain a mortgage, so there is a minimum income level.

Affordable housing scheme can make a huge contribution to a parish, by not only meeting the housing needs of local people, but by helping to maintain the viability of services and amenities in the parish.  It can also help maintain the social balance and social networks.

The first step towards securing affordable housing in your parish is to contact the Worcestershire Rural Housing Enabler (RHE) based at Community First - an independent charitable body working with rural communities to facilitate rural housing schemes. The post is funded from various sources, including Worcestershire County Council, four Local Housing Authorities and seven Housing Associations.

How can we be sure that properties will be allocated to local people?

The homes will be allocated through the Home Choice Plus housing register. It will be important that the parish council understands the lettings process and are able to advise local people.

The RSL will decide who is in the greatest need out of those applicants who have a local connection as defined in the council’s  Rural Allocation Policy. Locally elected district and parish councillors will observe the allocation process.  Verification of an applicant's local connection will be undertaken by the RSL, which may include a home visit if necessary.

Affordable homes on an exception development must be kept for local people and the s106 agreement is legally binding to the Housing Association and to the Local Authority. Applicants must be in housing need and have to have a local connection to be allocated a property. If no one with a connection to the parish applies, then applicants from neighbouring parishes can be considered.

Why are Housing Needs Surveys required when there is already a Home Choice Plus housing register?

Many people who live in rural settlements believe that affordable housing will never be built there, so they do not join the Housing Register.  If the need was solely judged by the register, it would underestimate the number of people in housing need, and too little or perhaps no housing would be provided. Surveys of local housing needs almost always identify some people who are in need, but have not joined the register.  A Survey can also help in consulting with the parish community, and the process may help to bring forward land for development sites.

The RHE will work with the parish council to undertake a survey of every household in the parish to establish the unique needs of each rural community.  A standard questionnaire has been designed by Community First but this can be modified as necessary through discussion with the parish council. Analysis of the returned questionnaires is carried out by Worcestershire County Council's Research & Intelligence Department, to ensure the validity of the result. This is important for both obtaining planning consent and the funding of rural schemes.

More information on developing an affordable rural housing scheme can be found in the booklet Affordable Homes Toolkit or by contacting the Rural Housing Enabler or the Housing Enabling Officer from Malvern Hills District Council.

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This page was last reviewed 9 July 2012 at 14:23 by Web Team.
The page is next due for review 5 January 2013.
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Malvern Hills District Council, Council House, Avenue Road, Malvern, WR14 3AF - Directions to Council Offices.