Headlines: January 30th, 2008

Concerns raised by the Commission for Rural Communities about the availability of affordable homes in country areas have brought about a change to the Housing and Regeneration Bill. The Commission feared the ability to sell shared ownership homes could make it even harder for people on low incomes to find homes in their local communities.

Following discussions with the CRC, the Government has tabled a new amendment to the Bill which, if agreed, would limit the ability of people living in new shared ownership properties to sell on to the open market through ‘leasehold enfranchisement’. The Government believes the amendment would be a powerful tool to ensure affordable housing remains affordable.

Housing Minister Iain Wright said the amendment had been tabled in response to concerns expressed by rural stakeholders, including the Commission. “It will give first-time buyers a chance to get on the housing ladder in these areas, while, at the same time, keeping properties as affordable housing for future purchasers,” he said. Mr. Wright said in some areas, such as small rural communities, land might not come forward for development if owners could not be assured that the housing built on it would remain affordable for future buyers. The Government will now consult on which areas and settlements will be eligible for this measure.

Jo Lavis from the Commission said the change was an important step to ensuring that people from all walks of life could live in rural areas. “Hopefully it will also encourage landowners to offer more sites for affordable housing, whereas in the past they may have been reluctant because of a fear that the new homes may be sold off at a profit at a later date.”