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Rural Areas: Housing

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when a decision is expected to be announced by the Housing Corporation on the proposed Rural Housing Challenge Fund. (189834)

As part of our preparations for the comprehensive spending review (CSR) during the summer of 2007, DEFRA asked the Housing Corporation to provide advice on the feasibility of a potential revenue funding programme to support activity to improve the delivery of affordable rural housing at local level. We always made it clear that this would be considered in the light of the CSR settlement.

That advice has now been carefully considered. However, given the Government’s undertaking on increases in housing supply generally—which will benefit rural as well as urban areas—we have concluded that the value of a small challenge fund would not be enough to merit a switching of resources away from other priority areas of DEFRA’s business.

The Government have already set out proposals to increase the supply of housing and will be allocating £8.4 billion across the regions over the next three years. The Housing Corporation will be tasked with spending this money most effectively. The Government’s long-term housing supply and affordability public service agreement (PSA) target specifically covers rural as well as urban affordability.

In addition, the Housing Green Paper sets out the Government’s intention to establish a national target for rural affordable housing. The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) is in the process of developing this target, based on advice from the Regional Assemblies and the Housing Corporation. It is much more important to ensure that these measures work for rural areas, rather than to focus attention on small packets of funding from DEFRA.

Together with CLG, we remain committed to addressing the affordable rural housing problem. At a national level, the policies and funding to deliver are largely in place, but we want to ensure that they feed through into delivery. That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has asked the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Matthew Taylor) to carry out a review to find out how land use and planning can better support business and deliver affordable housing in rural areas. The hon. member will report to both DEFRA and CLG in the summer.