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Housing: Rural Areas

Volume 486: debated on Thursday 22 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has to increase (a) the availability of and (b) access to affordable housing in rural areas. (248183)

The Homes and Communities Agency has been set a national target to provide 10,300 affordable homes in smaller rural communities from 2008-09 to 2010-11 for both social rent and low cost home ownership. Grant will be allocated to those schemes which meet the needs of local people, the regional strategy and demonstrate strong value for money from the £8 billion National Affordable Housing Programme. The target itself is a significant increase in comparison with previous delivery and represents a significant challenge, by its focus on completions not allocations. However, given current market conditions, it is too early to predict outputs with certainty over the period to 2010-11.

In addition, provisions in the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 will enable all providers of shared ownership houses to restrict the equity share which shared owners may acquire in order to retain the benefit of the shared ownership homes for future purchasers in areas, such as small rural settlements, where replacement would be difficult.

The Government are also committed to helping the development of a viable, well managed and financially robust Community Land Trust sector. Community Land Trusts have the potential to get the weight of the community behind the development of affordable housing and bring forward land for development, particularly in rural areas. We recently published a consultation on the development of a viable Community Land Trust sector and we have received 63 responses from a wide range of stakeholders which we are currently analysing. We will publish the results in the near future.

Access to social rented housing is determined by the allocations legislation. This is designed to ensure the widest possible access whilst ensuring that priority goes to those people who are in the greatest housing need.

Access to low cost home ownership schemes funded through the Affordable Housing Programme is open to first time buyers with an annual household income of £60,000 or less who are unable to buy a home in the market.

The Prime Minister commissioned a report from the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Matthew Taylor) who has been looking at how land use and planning can better support rural business and deliver affordable housing in rural communities. His report, published in July 2008, provides a comprehensive review of the issues that our rural communities face, including access to affordable housing, and provides a number of practical recommendations. We are looking at the report in detail and will publish a full response shortly.