Headlines: October 9th, 2008

Two consultations have begun on new powers to ensure affordable homes are available in rural areas. They would mean communities that are facing the worst housing shortages could be given special status to ensure housing can be retained for local people.

The proposed new powers would allow those areas with the most severe housing shortages to be designated as protected areas. The measures would mean providers of affordable homes in those protected areas could hold on to a stake in new shared ownership homes or to have the first option to buy back the properties as a way of ensuring they continue to be available for families in the local community.

The second consultation announced by the Housing Minister, Ian Wright, involved proposals to expand Community Land Trusts as a way to allow rural first time buyers to own a home for as little as 60,000 pounds. The operation of the Trusts means buyers pay only for the cost of the building and not for the land. In one area, the Holdsworthy Community Property Trust in Devon is offering flats that would cost 115,000 pounds for prices as low as 59,500 pounds.

Graham Garbutt, the chief executive of the Commission for Rural Communities, said the lack of affordable homes was the single most pressing problem faced by rural people. “This is leading to the loss of young people and increasing age imbalance, as well as undermining the sustainability of rural communities. Now is the time to be bringing forward proposals that will make a real difference backed up with funding already allocated to provide affordable homes in rural towns and villages,” he said.