Experts gather at Bristol housing conference as rural South West faces affordable homes crisis

Thousands of affordable rural homes are urgently needed in the South West to avoid the region’s rural towns and villages becoming pockets for only pensioners and wealthy second home-owners. The warning from social housing provider Stonewater comes during New Homes Week (14-18 May) as housing professionals from across the region gather for the Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) South West Housing Conference in Bristol (16-17 May).

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The South West has both the largest rural population in England and the most expensive housing, a combination which underlines the need for more affordable sub-market homes to house local people. Recently published figures show there was a shortfall of 21,000* affordable homes built in the region between 2012 and 2016.

Only eight per cent of rural housing is affordable

Average house prices in the rural South West are 10 times local earnings and would require a household income of at least £61,700 or a £33,000 pay rise to afford a mortgage.

“Only eight per cent of rural housing is affordable compared with 20 per cent in urban centres like Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth. With demand out-stripping supply, the high cost of housing in the region is sucking the life out of our country towns, villages and hamlets as evidenced by the growing number of boarded up village shops, pubs and post offices in the region,” says Jonathan Layzell. “This trend can only be reversed if housing associations, government, developers and communities are open to working in closer partnership to build the right homes in the right rural locations where local workers and young families need them most.”

This year Stonewater will deliver 133 affordable rural homes for rent and shared ownership in the South West. Along with a recently completed 30-home rental and shared ownership scheme in Evercreech, it has village developments under way in Stoke Sub Hamdon, Charminster and Mosterton.