Rural Life Monitor 2024

01 July 2024

This report explores how the housing crisis affects rural communities, services and business. We examine the issues today and the ways in which housing associations in rural areas are working to address these.

Affordable housing is essential to the prosperity of rural communities. It means that people in rural areas have the option to live and work where they grew up, close to their families. Unfortunately, this is increasingly difficult for many due to high house prices and private rents. It also means that the people needed to work in and support local businesses and services are too often having to move away, leaving key amenities in rural areas struggling. 

The housing crisis is often discussed in terms of the number of new homes needed to address the housing crisis in England, but less often in terms of how this looks in different parts of the country. In fact, the number of new affordable homes needed to sustain a village is relatively small. Research published by CPRE, English Rural and Rural Services Network found that building just 10 new affordable homes in a rural area benefits the wider economy, generating an extra £1.4m and supporting an average of 26 jobs. 

Despite this, building new affordable homes in rural areas is extremely challenging. The planning process often takes longer due to stretched and under-resourced planning departments. Rural projects tend to be smaller too so do not benefit from the economies of scale typical in larger developments. This means that once planning is completed, high skilled labour and materials costs are often higher.  

Consequently, we are not building the homes necessary for rural communities to thrive, socially or economically. This is not only hurting local communities but wider economic growth as well. Services such as schools and pubs are the pillars of rural community life. These services are increasingly at risk of closing where rural areas have suffered from lack of investment in new affordable homes. Without this investment, it is difficult for families to grow and remain in the same area, and more difficult for people to move to these areas, putting the long-term sustainability of local businesses at risk.  

In 2017, we published a report called the Rural Life Monitor which explored this issue. In this new report we examine the issues facing rural communities today and the ways in which housing associations in rural areas are working to address these. This report helps make the case for the government to produce a long-term plan for housing.

Who to speak to

Patrick Merton-Jones, External Affairs Manager