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14 July 2016


Rural Housing Week

Rural Housing Week

Two Castles Housing Association is working to make living in rural areas more affordable after new figures highlighted the rising costs of the average home.

The figures, released by the National Housing Federation (NHF) for Rural Housing Week, show that that even the average ‘affordable’ property in parts of the North West would cost more than eight times the salary of local residents. By comparison, a UK homebuyer earning the average salary for in 1995 would have had to spend between 3.2 times and 4.4 times their salary on a house, depending on where they lived.

In South Lakeland, for example, the average affordable home costs £148,950 – that’s 8.2 times the £17,950 average full-time income of residents.*
Rural Housing Week (11-17 July) aims to shine a spotlight on rural housing issues and demonstrate how housing associations are helping to maintain a living, working countryside.

More than one in five of England’s population live in rural areas but in some of these places only a fifth of the homes we need have been built over the last five years.

With house prices rising at a faster rate than most salaries and people continuing to struggle to get onto the property ladder, Two Castles Housing Association has built 104 homes this year across Cumbria in areas where demand is at its highest.

All of these homes have been either sold under shared ownership agreements or let at affordable rents, providing a vital supply of affordable housing to people otherwise priced out of the market.

Recent developments include 43 new affordable homes in Grange-over-Sands; South Lakeland, built by Esh Property Services in partnership with Two Castles. An additional £2.6 million scheme of 18 new affordable homes has been built in Staveley by Two Castles with local developer Russell Armer Homes, while another 40 homes across Cumbria were built as part of Story Homes developments and acquired by Two Castles.

To continue to address the need for affordable rural housing, Two Castles has plans for 56 more homes in Cumbria in 2016, including schemes in Skelwith and Smithy Bridge, Grasmere. Once complete, all of these homes will be sold on or let to local people with established connections to the area.

Rob Brittain, property services director at Two Castles Housing Association, said: “The NHF figures highlight just how much the rising costs of homes could threaten our rural communities, as local families increasingly find themselves priced out of the market. It’s vital that we do all we can to address the issue, by providing essential affordable housing.

“Through our shared ownership schemes we are helping to make the housing ladder more accessible for hardworking, local people in the hardest hit rural areas such as South Lakeland, Eden, Allerdale and Copeland. These are people for whom home ownership might otherwise simply not be an option.
“Our new homes continue to be over-subscribed by families who are struggling to stay in the communities they call home. With this in mind we will continue to work hard with partners to continue to address the shortfall in housing throughout 2016.”

In addition to the homes in the North West, Two Castles worked with partners to develop 61 homes in the North East during 2015, with another 32 planned in the region by the end of this year.

Housing associations up and down the country are using Rural Housing Week as an opportunity to highlight the crucial role affordable housing plays in helping to maintain small rural communities and highlight their innovative solutions to rural housing problems.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “We have a huge opportunity to safeguard the future of our countryside to ensure our villages and market towns are living, breathing, dynamic economies with great jobs, great broadband and great places to live with new homes.

“Housing associations like Two Castles provide a place to live for local people who would otherwise be completely priced out, enabling them to live in the same place as their friends and family. I’ve been to many new developments in villages which have enhanced the aesthetics of the village – but even more importantly have enhanced the economic potential, the ability of young people to live where they grew up and raise families of their own.

“I’m delighted that this year’s Rural Housing Week is shining a spotlight on the innovation of housing associations and their creative responses to tackling the housing crisis in our rural areas.”

Rural Housing Highlights
Hexham, Northumberland
: A pioneering £3.4 million development, which has seen the completion of UK’s first ever housing association homes to use smart technology to improve energy efficiency. The 26 new affordable homes, situated at Anick View on Corbridge Road, on the eastern side of Hexham, comprise seven two-bedroom houses, six two-bedroom bungalows, nine three-bedroom houses and four one-bedroom flats, all of which have been let to local people with an existing connection to the town and its surrounding area.

Young couple Joshua and Rachael were delighted to get the keys to their first home – a brand new, two-bedroomed, smart home at the scheme.

Rachael said: “We saw these homes being built and both said how lovely it would be to have one. We were living with Joshua’s mum at the time and, as well as having a 30 minute journey to work, it was difficult for Joshua’s daughter to come and stay over.

“We feel really grateful to be here and part of such an important project. Because it’s our first home together we weren’t sure how much the energy costs would be but we’ve been truly surprised at how cheap the house is to run.

“Moving here has made a huge difference to our lives.”

Staveley: A new £2.6 million scheme of 18 homes. Teacher Emily Cannon, 23, and her partner Chris Raven, 24, a farmer, were both born in Staveley and have lived there all their lives, as have their parents and grandparents. Faced with spiralling private rental costs, the couple feared they may have to move away from the village and their families to be able to afford a home with the extra space that they needed.

Emily said: “We were renting privately but were desperate for a place we could settle down in with a little extra space. We thought we were going to have to move away from our families, which we didn’t want to do, because there was nowhere in the village that we could afford to rent privately.

“We just couldn’t have afforded this size and quality of property if we had continued to rent privately. We’ve been in our new home for a couple of months now and couldn’t be happier with how things have turned out.”

Skelwith Bridge: A pioneering partnership between Two Castles Housing Association and Skelwith and Langdale Community Land Trust (SLCLT), a not-for-profit company formed to provide affordable housing that benefits the community, to design the new homes in Skelwith Bridge, near Ambleside. The three three-bedroom homes and one two-bedroom home in the village, which have all been granted planning consent, mark the first time Two Castles has worked in partnership with a community interest company. Work is due to start in summer 2016, with completion scheduled for early 2017.

Gordon Baddely, Chairman of Skelwith and Langdale Community Land Trust, said: “We are all aware of the special problems relating to affordable homes in the Lake District. Communities are struggling because local people, and people who work in the area, cannot afford the prices asked for the relatively few properties available. Our work with Two Castles Housing Association is an attempt to make at least some homes available to families who want to live within the Skelwith and Langdale community. They and their children will help to bring life and vitality back to our valleys.”

Grange-over-Sands: Two Castles Housing Association, working alongside Esh Property Services, has completed 43 new affordable homes in the new £6 million development at the site of the former Berners swimming pool. The scheme, now named Cedric Walk, includes a mix of houses and flats – 11 of which have been made available for sale under a shared ownership agreement. The remaining 32 properties have been let at an affordable rent to local people with an existing connection to the town.

Warkworth, Northumberland: A scheme of 27 new homes in the St Oswald’s Close development in Warkworth. The development is within walking distance of Warkworth Church of England First School. It includes nine two-bedroom and six three-bedroom properties, along with eight two-bedroom bungalows and four one-bedroom flats. Two Castles worked closely with partners to ensure the design of the new homes was in keeping with the village. The homes themselves reflect existing property designs and are set at an angle from the road to allow for triangular shaped front gardens, a distinctive feature common in the village.

Shotley Bridge, County Durham: A scheme of six two bedroom and two four bedroom homes for affordable rent. These homes are part of a larger development and were purchased from the developer under a Section 106 planning agreement. The homes meet Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3.

Stocksfield, Northumberland: Work is underway on 16 affordable homes, built by Esh Property Services working alongside Two Castles. Once complete, all of these homes will be sold or let to local people with established connections to the village. To continue to address the shortfall, Two Castles has plans for additional affordable homes in the region in 2016.