Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Defra looks into new affordable rural housing programme

Defra looks into new affordable rural housing programme

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (176/07) issued by The Government News Network on 14 June 2007

Defra will begin researching a new funding programme to increase affordable rural housing, Barry Gardiner, Minister for Rural Affairs, announced today.

The feasibility study will be funded by Defra and led by the Housing Corporation. It will consider the case for a new time limited funding programme to help local organisations to overcome local barriers to the provision of affordable homes in rural areas.

Barry Gardiner launched the study at the Commission for Rural Communities "Affordable Rural Housing Commission - One Year On" Conference. The conference marks the anniversary of the publication of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission's final report. This highlighted the shortage of affordable rural housing and came forward with practical solutions to improve access.

Mr Gardiner said:

"I have asked the Housing Corporation to look into how a new fund could improve provision of affordable housing in rural areas. I want this research to focus on outcomes rather than processes. I want to know exactly how such a fund could achieve increased provision of affordable rural homes where they are needed, promote best practice and overcome local barriers.

"The fund would be designed to empower people to work out what is best for their particular parts of rural England rather than take decisions for them. Local people know best what their particular problems are and how best to overcome them.

"The next milestone at the national level will be the Comprehensive Spending Review - where the provision of social housing has been identified as a priority."

If the study shows that a new funding programme is needed, funding would be subject to the Comprehensive Spending Review, which will report later this year.

The latest figures suggest that good progress has been made in the provision if new affordable homes in rural areas, and the government wants to build on this. In 2005/06 almost 45,000 new units of affordable housing were provided across England. 23% of these new units were provided in rural local authority areas, which mirrors the proportion of the population living in rural areas.

Any potential new funding programme will not dictate solutions but will empower local organisations to find their own answers. This could include new approaches based on local conditions and knowledge or existing mechanisms, such as Rural Housing Enablers.

Responding to the Affordable Rural Housing Commission's recommendations, the Housing Corporation has also recently set up the Rural Housing Advisory Group, which is looking at innovative ways to increase the supply of affordable homes in rural areas.

Notes to editors

1. The Housing Corporation will be working over the summer to see if such a programme is called for, and if so, possible programme design options.

2. Rural Housing Enablers (RHEs) work with rural communities, local authorities, landowners, and housing associations to help identify village housing needs and find appropriate solutions. RHEs are currently funded through Defra's Rural Social and Community Programme until 31st March 2008.

3. The Government's on-going response to the final report of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission can be found on the joint Defra/Communities and Local Government Affordable Rural Housing website http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/arh/index.htm The site is updated every three months.

4. The Rural Housing Advisory Group will report annually to Communities and Local Government. The group is chaired by Candy Atherton, Board member of the Housing Corporation with lead responsibility for rural housing. Members include former Affordable Rural Housing Commission (ARHC) commissioners, representatives of rural interest groups such as the Commission for Rural Communities and experts in housing delivery.

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