Attempts to guarantee a supply of affordable homes for first-time buyers in rural areas have been welcomed in the West Midlands – but experts say more needs to be done.
Housing Minister Ian Austin announced that shared ownership properties in 13,000 small rural settlements in England would be protected to ensure they stay in the social housing sector.
Buyers will be restricted to purchasing 80 per cent of shared ownership properties or must sell them back to providers – such as housing associations – if they acquire a 100 per cent stake.
Debbie Walsh, head of public policy for RICS in the West Midlands, said the legislation was much-needed but the National Housing Federation, which represents England’s housing associations, said the Government needs to do more to combat a “chronic shortage” of affordable homes in rural areas.
Ms Walsh said: “Young people and families working in rural areas are crying out for homes they can afford to live in that are close to their jobs and allow them to be part of local communities. The measures will help affordable homes in rural areas remain affordable and stop them moving into the open market where they can be bought by people with no links to local communities.”
The rules will be introduced in areas where land for cheap new homes is limited, or where a lack of properties mean it is difficult to buy homes that can then be offered on a part-ownership basis.
Generally, people who buy a share of a property from a housing association and then pay rent on the remaining portion are able to increase their stake to full ownership. The provisions will also enable organisations and companies to provide shared ownership properties on a similar basis to housing associations.
Mr Austin said: “We are determined to help provide more homes in rural areas and help first-time buyers on to the property ladder. These new measures will not only help protect affordable rural homes but also boost the number of properties available. We simply can’t afford to lose shared ownership homes in areas where they are difficult to replace which is why these new provisions on ownership are so important.”
The measures will apply to all new shared ownership leases granted after September 7.
The Government is also increasing support for community land trusts (CLTs) – private bodies that own or control land and assets for the benefit of the local community, often providing shared ownership or social rented homes. A £500,000 grant will be provided to charity Carnegie UK to help develop CLTs.
National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr estimated that 100,000 new homes would need to be built in the countryside in the next decade to meet demand. He said: “The Government clearly understands the importance of protecting the supply of affordable housing in rural areas. But with 750,000 people on waiting lists for affordable housing in the English countryside, clearly much more needs to be done to tackle the housing crisis in our villages and market towns.”