A lack of affordable housing in rural communities has been a problem for many years. Incomes in rural areas tend to be lower than the regional average which makes it difficult for people working locally to live in the village where they work. High house prices prevent first-time buyers from getting a foothold in the housing market.
More affordable homes in small villages would support local people of all ages to live and work in rural areas and would support the creation of sustainable communities.
The Strategic Housing Team is keen to support and advise rural communities and parish councils that wish to develop an affordable housing scheme for local people.
If a parish council is aware of local concerns about unmet housing need or where the issue of housing need has arisen as part of the Neighbourhood Planning process, then they should consider what action to take. This is where the Strategic Housing Team will be able to advise on what options are available.
The delivery of affordable housing is a big project to undertake and can be daunting. The Rural Housing Alliance has published a practical guide for parish councils which can be downloaded from their website and is designed to address some of the questions you may have.
The Strategic Housing Team work closely with parish councils, local residents, registered housing providers, homebuilders, our planning policy team, and many other groups, to understand rural housing across West Suffolk.
Housing needs surveys
To support and inform our work, we research the housing needs within rural areas. Parish councils can also commission independent housing needs studies to understand their local housing need. A number of local housing needs surveys have been completed. These have been in:
- Barton Mills
Rural exception sites
The purpose of a rural exception site is to deliver homes for people that have a local connection to the village. This type of site is also important to sustain rural communities. A rural exception site is a site that sits outside the development framework boundary, which would never normally be given planning consent but may be considered where it provides affordable homes for local people.
Homes can only be brought forward on these sites if there is a proven unmet local need for affordable housing and a legal planning agreement, also known as an Section 106 agreement, is put in place to ensure that the homes will always remain affordable. This includes restricting the percentage that can be purchased under shared ownership properties to an 80 per cent share. The Section 106 agreement also ensures that the homes will be for those in need of housing and prioritised for applicants with a strong local connection to the parish.
Guidance set out in the Government's National Planning Framework may allow a small element of market housing to be developed on rural exception sites to support the delivery of affordable housing where sufficient public subsidy is not available.
Land value on rural exception sites is valued lower as it sits outside the development framework for that area. As the land value is cheaper, more affordable homes can be delivered for local people.
We are proud of our record of bringing forward affordable homes for local people through the exception site policy, working with local communities and parish councils to provide homes supported and welcomed by the local community.
We encourage people to bring forward sites in their village that the community and Parish are keen to see developed as affordable housing for local people.
Do I have a local connection?
You would be considered to have a strong local connection to the village in question if you meet any one of the following criteria:
- You have worked (been in paid employment) in the village for the last 12 months for 16 hours or more per week.
- You have lived in the village for at least five years out of the last eight years.
- You have family members who are living in the village and have lived there for a period of five years or more. This could be one of your parents, children, or a sibling. Other close family ties will be considered in agreement with us on a case by case basis.
There are also special circumstances that we consider to give rise to a local connection. For example, if you have a significant role as a carer for a resident of the village in question.
Evidence of local connection will be verified by the allocated housing provider.
They will need proof of address, length of residence, or proof of employment or any other special connection.
It is important to register on Home-link as soon as you can, as you cannot be nominated for affordable housing if not registered. If you wait until new homes are ready before asking for nomination, it is too late. If applying for shared ownership you must also be registered with approved registered provider bringing forward the shared ownership properties.
Affordable Housing Guide
West Suffolk Council recognise that there are particular challenges in providing affordable housing for the people living in or with connections to its many rural areas. With this in mind, we have produced an Affordable Housing Guide to assist all those involved in the development of these much needed homes.
Contact Strategic Housing
We are always on the lookout for suitable sites for rural affordable housing. If you know of any such sites, please contact the Strategic Housing Team via the email address below.
We would be very happy to come and talk to any local community group about affordable housing in your rural area.