Reader Letter: Hastoe Development Director says lack of affordable housing threatens North Norfolk villages
- Credit: NNDC/Hastoe
Rural areas are home to one in five of England's population, but the lack of decent and affordable housing in our rural communities threatens their ability to thrive and grow.
One example of this is Beeston Regis, a small village in North Norfolk where hopes for a new affordable housing scheme to address the lack of homes for local people have recently been dashed by unforeseen planning issues.
This development would have provided affordable homes for the local people of Beeston Regis, and had the support of the parish council, local authority and many from the local community.
While it has now been confirmed that this development will not go ahead, the need for new housing which is accessible for local people in the surrounding area is crucial now more than ever.
This year a study by the National Housing Federation found that North Norfolk has the fourth highest number of second-owned homes in the country, as almost 10% of all properties in district (5,006 homes) are second homes.
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This distorts the local housing market and pushes up house prices – making it nearly impossible for local people to buy a home in their own community and expensive for them to rent.
As a result, many Norfolk villages are seeing a demographic shift where young people and families are forced out as incoming retired buyers and holiday lets push house prices further out of their reach. But how do we tackle this problem?
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While last year's announcement of government funding to support communities affected by second home ownership is welcome, it is important that districts such as North Norfolk look to build more affordable housing – to rent as well as to buy – to provide opportunities for small communities to remain viable.
This is something that Hastoe – as one of England's leading rural housing associations – exists to do.
We firmly believe that providing small numbers of sustainable new homes will breathe new life into rural communities across the country, especially when those communities are kept at the heart of the developments.
Our community-led development model starts with the community which has identified a local need for affordable homes and invites Hastoe, or another housing association, to help them with the process.
It is the community that recognises the need for more homes, it is the community that decides where and how those homes are to be delivered, and it is the community who are there right through to the day when local families move into their new homes. Over the years this model has delivered thousands of genuinely affordable homes for rural communities, providing a positive development experience for all involved. Often neighbouring parishes are buoyed by the development's success and push for new housing in their areas.
Hastoe is currently working in villages on their fourth such development on the invitation of the local parish.
While the problems facing the proposed development in Beeston Regis could not be ironed out, the issue of housing our flourishing village communities is a challenge that can be overcome.
John Lefever, Development Director, East Regional, Hastoe