Priced Out: the Rising Cost of Rural Homes

By: Nicola Robinson  Published: October 2004


Rural life as we know it is under threat. The severe and growing shortage of affordable housing is polarising communities, forcing families out of the countryside, and removing a labour force needed to sustain rural life.  There is a real danger that living in the countryside will become the preserve of the wealthy and that the diversity of rural communities will be undermined. Unless action is taken now to replace the affordable homes lost through Right to Buy and rocketing house prices, rural life, as we know it, will be lost.

  • The number of households owning second homes has jumped by 15 per cent over the last year.
  • Over the 15 years to 2001, nearly one quarter of all council homes in rural areas were lost through the Right to Buy.
  • House prices rose faster in rural areas than in urban areas in 2002/03 in six out of eight English regions, rural homes are much less affordable than in urban areas. (A regional breakdown is provided at Annex A.)
  • 86 per cent of rural housing is owner-occupied or privately rented, in comparison with 77 per cent in urban areas.
  • In 2003, 37 per cent of the rural population spent more than half their income on mortgage payments, compared to 26 per cent of urban residents.
  • Between 1999/00 and 2002/03, the proportion of homeless households in rural areas increased by 24 per cent, and in remote rural areas by 30 per cent.

 The Governments Rural Strategy 2004 has highlighted both the increasing problem of rural homelessness and the pressing need for affordable housing. Departments with responsibility for rural affairs are committed to action on the particular problems of shortages of affordable housing in rural areas and, in England, to work with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Regional Housing Boards to agree strategies and targets on affordable housing. While this is welcome, the growing inequality in housing in rural areas is marginalising a whole section of society with consequences that are only just beginning to register in the political arena. A step change in policy and investment is needed now to halt this crisis, or thousands of families will continue to be forced out of the countryside.  


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