Dorset village scheme highlights the challenges of creating affordable rural housing

Leading social housing provider Stonewater has celebrated the start of Rural Housing Week (2-6 July) at its upcoming 13-home affordable village development in Winterbourne Abbas, near Dorchester.

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With construction set to commence this month, the new Stonewater homes are helping to meet a housing crisis in rural villages and towns where only eight per cent of housing is affordable compared with 20 per cent in main urban centres*.

Working closely with West Dorset District Council and Glossbrook Builders, Stonewater will provide a mixture of five one- and two-bedroom houses for affordable rent, plus eight two- and three-bedroom houses for shared ownership. Shared ownership is a part-rent part-buy scheme which allows buyers to purchase a percentage of their home while paying a reduced rent on the remainder. If their circumstances change, purchasers have the opportunity to staircase their percentage until in many cases, they own their homes outright.

Priority for allocating the new affordable homes will be given to those who already have a connection to the local area.
“At a time when the average person in West Dorset would need a 180% pay rise to afford an average home***, more and more young people and families who have grown up in the village are finding themselves forced to move further afield to find a home they can afford,” says Charlotte Brace, Development Manager at Stonewater. “Locals looking to rent are also being priced out, with the average rent eating up well over a third (37%**) of their earnings. This has a devasting impact on the sustainability of village shops and local services which is evidenced by the closure of 46 post offices across the region in the past five years and 217 pubs between 2013 and 2016***.
“These new affordable homes in Winterbourne Abbas are a great example of how housing associations can work with local authorities to tackle this problem, building village-friendly homes that local people can truly afford. These homes, however, have to be the right type of housing, in the right location, to stimulate growth, diversity and long-term prosperity.”

Stonewater’s sensitively designed Winterbourne Abbas village development has received funding from West Dorset District Council and Homes England (formerly the Homes and Communities Agency).

Monica Burns, External Affairs Manager for rural housing at the National Housing Federation, says: “Far too few homes are being built for local people and villages are dying as a result. Young people are moving to cities and often house prices are rocketing. Right across rural England, schools are shutting their doors to pupils. Post offices, which provide vital community services, are closing at a similar rate and countless pubs are serving their last ever orders to locals.

“It’s therefore very welcome news that housing associations like Stonewater are stemming this tide by building the new homes local people desperately need.”

Councillor Tim Yarker, West Dorset District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing, says: “Like many parts of the country, some of West Dorset’s strongest housing need is in rural areas. It is encouraging to see the success of the development at Winterbourne Abbas during Rural Housing Week. Wholly affordable developments of this kind are incredibly welcome as they provide much needed housing for local people and make a valuable contribution to the vitality of their communities.

“West Dorset District Council is pleased to support the scheme and is encouraging the development of more good quality homes through its Opening Doors housing programme, including affordable developments of the kind in Winterbourne Abbas.”

Nick Dunkerton, Glossbrook Managing Director, says: “Glossbrook Builders Limited is delighted to be once again working with Stonewater for the provision of 13 shared ownership and affordable housing units at Winterbourne Abbas. It is a very attractive development and one that Glossbrook is very proud to be part of.”

* Department for Communities and Local Government (2011) English housing survey, DCLG

** National Housing Federation, Home Truths 2017/18

*** National Housing Federation, Rural Housing Week 2018 resources

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