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Date published: 02 July 2024

Over two-thirds (69%) of people who live in rural communities believe that it is difficult to secure housing in their local area, according to new polling from Opinium commissioned by Stonewater, one of the largest social housing providers in the UK.


Stonewater commissioned the polling to further its understanding of the attitudes of rural residents towards housebuilding and people’s perceptions of the current state of rural communities.


The majority of rural respondents that said they thought it was difficult (70%) believe the cost of housing is to blame, and a third (33%) of them think that a lack of housing in their local area causes house prices to increase due to demand outweighing supply.


There is significant appetite for new affordable homes in rural areas, including homes for low-cost ownership (53%), council housing (53%), and social housing (46%). Rural residents believe a key constraint for people to move to the countryside is a lack of good quality, affordable housing (42%).


Jonathan Layzell, Chief Growth Officer of Stonewater, said: “The housing crisis in rural areas is particularly acute and a drastic change of direction is needed to ensure those living in rural communities are not held back and have the opportunity to stay there with the right housing and amenities.


"One of the key channels to address this is to build more affordable rural homes, and that’s why we’re calling for the next Government to ensure a long-term Affordable Homes Programme to enable new homes across the country." 

Alongside this, the polling also showed people in rural communities highlighted a lack of public transport (55%) and services (45%) in their area, with these being the most significant reasons why people might be deterred from moving to the countryside.


This sentiment was shared by urban and suburban respondents, who said that a lack of public services (44%), a lack of public transport (43%), and a lack of public amenities (39%) were the key reasons why they wouldn’t move to the countryside.


Research from the National Housing Federation due to be published this week backs up these concerns, showing that 45 local authority-maintained schools in rural areas have closed between 2018 and 2023, and that there are 535 fewer pubs and bars during the same period. Additionally, 53 post offices in rural areas closed between 2022 and 2023, while the number of post offices in urban areas has increased.


 Jonathan continued: “More affordable homes in rural areas will support the local economy and local services. Increased supply of affordable homes will help ease house price pressures, secure investment for public services and amenities through developer contributions to public services and transport, and attract people to live in the area who will spend their money in local amenities. This isn’t just about building more homes – it’s about improving the state of and supporting our rural communities.”


Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “We are in the midst of a housing emergency, the effects of which are felt even more acutely by those in rural communities. When the supply of new affordable housing doesn’t meet local need, local businesses and services are impacted and the whole community suffers.


"It affects people’s jobs, children’s education, means many are forced to move away and in the worst cases puts people at risk of homelessness. 


“Building more social and affordable homes in rural areas is the key to enabling communities to thrive, both socially and economically, and it’s clear there’s support for it, as this research shows. We need the next government to meet the needs of these communities and commit to a long-term plan for housing to help tackle the housing crisis in rural areas.”