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Stackyard News May 06

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    Government welcomes report on affordable rural housing

A new report today which highlights the need for more homes to help families in rural areas has been welcomed by Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs David Miliband.

The Affordable Rural Housing Commission, set up by the Government to look at ways to help families in rural areas find affordable homes, has published its findings.

The Commission's report argues that providing affordable housing is essential to sustaining rural communities, and sets out a series of detailed recommendations which Government will be considering over the coming months. As a starting point the Government will take rapid action to promote more affordable homes and section 106 agreements in rural areas.

Welcoming the report, Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper, said:

"In rural areas, as with the rest of the country, an ageing and growing population is driving up housing demand and creating pressures for first time buyers and for social housing. The report makes clear that we need more homes to help families in rural areas and to sustain local communities - that includes more social housing, more shared ownership housing and more market housing as well. "

Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs David Miliband said:

"Rural communities face the same pressures caused by the increased demand for housing as urban areas. But it is important to recognise the additional demands they face including lower rural wages and the need to protect the environment. The Commission's report makes an important contribution to meeting these challenges and we will be considering their recommendations over the coming months."

The Government agrees with the Commission that more social housing is needed in rural areas and is already increasing the level of social housing across the country. Furthermore, Government has made social housing a priority for the Spending Review next year.

The Commission also argues that a greater share of social housing is needed in rural areas. At the moment 23% of the population live in rural districts and 21% of social housing is built in rural districts. However the majority of social housing within those districts is built in larger towns rather than villages. The Government will look carefully at the Commission's recommendation about the location of new social housing as part of the Spending Review considerations, alongside the need to address homelessness and temporary accommodation.

The Government also agrees with the Commission that there is a need for more shared ownership homes in rural areas and will make this a priority.

The Government intends to strongly promote more shared equity schemes in rural areas and will be publishing new planning guidance for local authorities to ensure that they use their section 106 powers more effectively. If all rural authorities achieved the same high performance levels in this area, they would be able to deliver 2,400 additional affordable homes per year in rural settlements.

The Government also welcomes the Commission's endorsement of the new approach to planning for housing. They have argued that development should not be restricted to towns and cities and that there should be more flexibility about land for development in rural areas, where it supports sustainable communities. As a result of their concerns the Government has introduced more flexibility into the draft planning guidance (PPS3).

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