The Government is today (20 July) announcing details for the delivery of its Manifesto commitment to establish an Affordable Rural Housing Commission to identify practical ways in which access to affordable housing for people in rural areas can be improved.
Supported by, and reporting to, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), the new Commission will aim to report quickly on this important issue.
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, said:
"The availability of affordable housing is the key issue for people living and working in rural areas, which is why the Government made a commitment in its rural manifesto to seek out practical and innovative solutions, based on robust evidence.
"Without pre-judging this work, it is already clear that while the causes and experience of a lack of affordable housing are very similar in urban and rural areas, the solutions for rural communities have to be tailored to take account of, for example, the environmental qualities of the countryside, and the higher unit costs of development.
"I am delighted that Elinor Goodman has agreed to chair this Commission. I look forward to receiving their report in March 2006."
Housing Minister, Baroness Andrews, said:
"Just as in urban areas, affordable housing helps create sustainable communities. It helps support diverse inclusive communities and local services. Conversely, a lack of affordable housing can make investment and economic regeneration more difficult.
"The Government has already taken positive steps to address this need in rural areas, including changes to the planning system. However it is not just an issue for Government. Importantly it is about innovation and good practice at the local level, which I am expecting the Commission to highlight."
The Affordable Rural Housing Commission will consider any issues and possible solutions that impact on the demand and supply of affordable housing in rural areas.
1. The Commission will report jointly to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Deputy Prime Minister, and will be supported by a joint Defra/ODPM secretariat.
2. Working arrangements for the Commission will be confirmed once members have been appointed over the course of the summer.
3. The Commission will want to collect regional and local experience to inform its work The Commission will cover England only.
4. The terms of reference for the Commission will be:
- To consider the evidence and reach a consensus on the relevant issues around affordable housing needs in rural areas, in the context of sustainable rural communities.
To provide recommendations for practical solutions across private, government and voluntary sectors, taking account of existing good practice.
5. The Affordable Rural Housing Commission will need to undertake its work in the context of the Government's commitment to sustainable development, including creating and maintaining sustainable communities. The Commission is therefore tasked with considering how to maximise the contribution that any proposed solutions and recommendations can make to meeting social, economic and environmental needs, through integrated action.
6. The Commission's report will inform the ongoing work of the Countryside Agency's Commission for Rural Communities.
7. Once the ARHC concludes its work, Elinor Goodman will join the Board of the Countryside Agency. For further information please see the associated information note at: www.defra.gov.uk/news/2005/050720d.htm .
8. Elinor Goodman was Political Editor of Channel Four News from 1983 until July 2005. She was a trustee of the Wiltshire Community Foundation, which raises money for groups dealing with rural isolation; was a member of MAFF's Hills Task Force; has been a trustee of the Rowntree Reform Trust; and is currently on the Boards of the Hansard Society Board and the Thomson Foundation. Ms Goodman lives in Wiltshire and is a keen horsewoman.