Rural Housing

Introduction

Our location within the South Downs National Park and proximity to London make the district a very desirable place to live. As a result, we find that there is very high demand for housing in the district. Unfortunately, this demand for the district's housing has pushed houses prices up beyond the reach of local households earning typical rural wages. The availability of rural housing is also affected by the reduction in affordable properties as a result of the Right to Buy, strict planning controls which restrict opportunities for new housing, and a reduction in the number of market housing through an increase in holiday lets and second homes.

Although the South Downs National Park Authority is the planning authority for a large area of the district, the council is still the Local Housing Authority for the whole area. As such, the provision of high quality housing that is affordable is very important to us. We believe that the provision of affordable rural housing is essential to maintaining populations in rural villages so local schools, shops, pubs and churches can survive.

The council employs a dedicated Rural Housing Enabler to advise and support rural parish council's and communities to deliver rural affordable housing through; Neighbourhood Plans, Exception Sites, and/or Community Land Trusts (CLT's). The Rural Housing Enabler will work with communities to establish their housing need, identify sites, and guide them through the development process.

What is affordable housing

Affordable housing includes affordable rented homes and low cost home ownership housing such as shared ownership. These are for eligible local households who would find it difficult to rent or buy in the open market.

What are the benefits of affordable housing?

An affordable housing scheme can make a significant contribution to the parish. Providing affordable homes for local people enables households on modest incomes be able to remain or return to the village they grew up in. It is important that communities have a mix of residents, including families, couples, and older people. It is this mix which helps to maintain local facilities such as the shop or post office, church or village school. In some cases, providing a stock of affordable housing can mean the difference between a shop staying open, and having to close.

Assessing the need

We can provide a summary of the households on the housing register who have a local connection to the parish. In addition we hold information on current affordable housing stock and turnover rates on a parish basis.

In some cases, we may need to supplement this information with a housing need survey. This is a questionnaire sent to every household in the parish. A housing needs survey also provides an opportunity for communities to advise what services within there parish should be campaigned for and suggest suitable sites for affordable housing development. The Rural Housing Enabler can collate and analyse this information, on a confidential basis, in line with the council's Data Protection Policy.

The combined housing need evidence will be used to help identify what size scheme will be needed to meet the local affordable housing need within the parish.

Considering the different ways of providing affordable housing

As a rule the majority of rural housing schemes are delivered through 'exception sites'. These are built on land outside of a village's Settlement Policy Area, and are not normally available for market housing. Any homes built on a site like this must be of a very high design quality, meet tough environmental standards, and be affordable for local households in perpetuity.

The Localism Act (2011) gave powers to local communities and parish and town councils to produce Neighbourhood Plans. Local affordable housing needs can be met through the development of a neighbourhood plan. This is usually achieved through identifying suitable market sites and allocating a percentage of the development for affordable housing for local people. More information can be found on the council's Neighbourhood Planning page.

Consulting the local community regularly

In many parishes, no significant development will have taken place for some time. It is important that the community understands the process and quality of housing proposed. The Rural Housing Enabler will be available to attend public meetings to explain the process and answer questions. We believe that the key to success is in developing a working partnership with our rural communities.

Regular consultation is important to address concerns from neighbours and residents. Affordable housing schemes are for the benefit of the community. Therefore, it is essential that local residents are kept informed throughout the process.

Identifying potential sites for development

Finding a site is the most important stage of the whole project. It is important to keep an open mind and consider all sites that may be suitable. The site must be appropriate in planning terms, have the support of the parish and have a willing landowner who will sell for exception site values.

Exception sites have a unique land value that is between agricultural and hope value/ The price agreed for the land is important to ensure that the housing to be provided is affordable. The price usually achieved is around £10,000 per property developed.

The Rural Housing Enabler can undertake a site appraisal and contact landowners, whilst liaising with the planning authority to assess the suitability of the sites.

Working with a Housing Association or setting up a Community Land Trust

In the current economic climate many housing associations are facing funding pressures and its not always economically viable for them to deliver small rural schemes. However, Hastoe Housing Association is the Home and Communities Agency's leading rural investment partner and are well placed to deliver new rural affordable housing. Other registered providers also operate in the rural areas of the district and further information can be provided by the Rural Housing Enabler.

As a council our job is to help communities find solutions and we are always looking at new and innovative methods of delivery. We think Community land trusts (CLT's) can play a key role in providing affordable homes for their community.

CLT's are non-profit, community-based organisations run by volunteers that develop housing, workspaces, community facilities or other assets that meet the needs of the community. Any individual can express an interest in setting up a CLT and invite other people to work with them on a project. The Rural Housing Enabler can assist anyone interested in setting up a CLT, and can sign post them to the best people for advise and help.

A CLT can work how it chooses, it can do everything including allocating homes and choosing developers or it can opt to have some help in some of the more technical aspects. They could also choose to work with a housing association. It is up to the CLT as to what approach it feels most appropriate.

A step by step guide on CLT's can be found below and further information can be found at the  National Community Land Trust Network .

Working towards planning permission

The first stage is to identify any site conditions or restrictions that might prevent or restrict development and determine what can be achieved on site. This will involve regular consultation, with plans and options presented as appropriate.

Residents should be given the opportunity to comment on proposals, and feedback given consideration, where possible.

A Section 106 agreement must be submitted as part of the planning application. This defines the planning obligations. Importantly, for sites that require a local connection, it also specifies how it is to be managed.

Once a site has been selected, an architect will need to be employed to design a scheme. Which should reflect local styles and be in keeping with the visual quality of the parish. It is likely that a number of technical, environmental and ecological surveys will have to be undertaken. This means that it can take a number of months for an application to be ready for submission and will usually involve considering a number of options before deciding which one to take forward.

How affordable housing is funded

The Homes and Communities Agency have in the past funded the majority of new affordable housing across the country. However, availability of government funding for the development of affordable rented housing is now very limited and government expect that the majority of affordable housing will be delivered through market sites. Although CLT's are able to attract government grant. In March the Chancellor announced that £60 million will be made available to support community led housing developments, including through CLT's in rural and costal communities.

Rural affordable housing costs a lot more to develop than housing in urban areas. To encourage the delivery of affordable housing the council have set aside £3 million to invest in affordable housing over the 5 year strategy period (2013-2018).The council will consider allocating grant funding to rural schemes where it will;

  • help attract government or registered provider investment into the district;
  • enable the viability of a scheme, and;
  • help meet the higher costs involved in the development of rural housing

Allocating the housing

For households to be considered for affordable rented homes, they must be listed on the council's housing register. When properties become available, they are advertised in the Homemove magazine, which is available every two weeks. Alternatively if a CLT is delivering the units the homes will be allocated in-line with their agreed allocations policy.

Interested households are required to 'bid' on properties when they are advertised. The properties will be allocated to the households that have the highest need and a local connection to the parish (if a local connection policy applies).

For all exceptions sites a Local Connection Registration Event will be held for the community in the parish, usually about three months before completion of the development. The council will write to all those who have previously claimed a local connection to the parish on their Homemove application, and invite them to visit us at the Local Connection Registration Event and bring proof of their local connection. This will be checked, and if accepted, we will update the applicants Homemove application to reflect this information.

On some schemes, we may want to give additional priority to households that are looking to downsize from their current home. This may free up another family-sized affordable home, which can be prioritised for another local household.

Please see Chichester District Council's allocation scheme for further information:

Local connection

A local connection is defined as:

  1. Currently residing in the parish
  2. Currently working in the parish
  3. Having a next of kin* living within the parish
  4. Being an ex-resident that has had to move away because of a lack of affordable housing

* For the purposes of a local connection, the definition of next of kin is taken from s.186 of the Housing Act (1985) and includes mother, father, brother, sister or adult children.