The pandemic has presented some of the toughest challenges we’ve ever seen. The impact has been felt across the country, including our rural communities.
Today marks the start of Rural Housing Week, our annual campaign that celebrates the vital work that housing associations do in rural areas. The theme this year is on rural communities – highlighting rural housing associations' dedication to providing affordable homes that people love and that help rural services thrive.
Over the years we’ve showcased the fantastic work our rural members do to build affordable homes that support communities and services, from local shops to schools and pubs. This work has continued throughout the pandemic and has been more important than ever.
I want to start Rural Housing Week by reflecting on two important areas of progress for rural housing that showcase our members’ long-term commitment to the communities they serve: decarbonisation and the supply of new affordable homes.
On decarbonisation, this week the Rural Housing Alliance will share their revised rural pledge, outlining their dedication to providing high quality, low carbon, affordable homes. The pledge sets out seven commitments that rural housing associations can hold themselves accountable to, including building to high environmental standards, helping residents and communities reduce their carbon impact, and being more sustainable and resilient.
This pledge includes a new commitment to decarbonisation, recognising that the journey to net zero carbon emissions can present an opportunity for rural housing associations to create jobs, end fuel poverty, and create greener and warmer homes for residents.
We know that there are challenges to decarbonising rural homes, including improving the fabric of homes, connectivity to the supply of energy, and the scale of fuel poverty. However, housing associations in rural communities and beyond are already taking the lead on this journey through our decarbonisation project.
On the supply of new affordable homes, the revised rural pledge is a welcome reminder that collaboration and partnerships are key to delivering the new homes that rural communities need, and this year we’ve made great progress on this at both a national and local level.
At a national level, we were pleased that the government listened to our concerns over planned changes to site thresholds for Section 106 arrangements. The proposals were going to change the level at which Section 106 contributions are levied from 10 properties to 40 or 50. As I set out in my evidence to the HCLG select committee, raising the level would have had a huge impact on the delivery of affordable housing, especially in rural areas. We are now preparing for the government’s upcoming Planning Bill, and will be working hard to ensure changes to the national system protect the provision of affordable rural homes.
At a local level, it is brilliant to see that for Rural Housing Week the Rural Housing Alliance are publishing their new Parish Councillors’ Guide to Rural Affordable Housing. Working with partners at a local level to build more homes has always been integral to our work at the NHF, and this new guide is a great example of how to do this.
This progress demonstrates once again the commitment that rural housing associations have to their communities, both now and long into the future. I hope you can join our celebration of this great work during Rural Housing Week, by: