On Wednesday 7th October 2015, David Cameron announced a historic new agreement with housing associations and the National Housing Federation that will extend the Right to Buy to 1.3 million more families across the country.
David Cameron believes the agreement “is a great offer for housing association tenants. It is also a great offer for the country, as our proposal means homes sold will be replaced, delivering an overall increase in housing supply.
However, having recently attended a seminar hosted by Hastoe (England’s leading specialist rural housing association), I have concerns that homes sold will not necessarily be replaced, particularly in rural areas where development costs are often much higher than those in urban areas. This fear is echoed by a number of rural housing organisations including the Campaign for Protection of the Rural Environment (CPRE) and the Country Land & Business Association (CLA).
Furthermore, whilst the opportunity to purchase your first home at a more affordable price is not one that many would turn down, what will happen when new these new homeowners choose to move on and put properties purchased through Right to Buy back on the market?
With ever increasing rural house prices, will future young, local people be able to afford them? Or will urban migrants continue to push prices up, and subsequently push locals out of the market once more? Consider still, the potential for ‘second home’ purchasers in some of England’s popular tourist destinations, pushing prices to astonishing levels and leaving behind a ‘ghost town’ in winter months – I am sure this cannot be the end-result that the government is looking to achieve.
To resolve these potential issues, some sort of rural exemption must be agreed to ensure that there is always a good supply of affordable housing in rural areas, to enable those born and raised in villages to be able to continue to live there when the time comes for them to ‘leave the nest’.
From experience, many landowners aim to achieve the maximum return from their land should they choose to sell for development, and often the sale of land for affordable housing can be a contentious issue. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes landowners can choose to develop or sell land to housing associations in order to leave a legacy for the community. More often than not, enabling the community to have a supply of quality affordable housing for younger community residents is seen as the perfect solution in order to leave this legacy, whilst improving farm cash flow in the short term.
If there is a risk that the houses built might not always be ‘affordable’ there is a real risk that we could see fewer and fewer rural exception sites offered up for affordable housing development in the future, which may well not help the government in reaching the target of one million new homes by 2020.
This is an issue that certainly needs careful and very prompt consideration by the government.