Stonewater, leading the way in rural housebuilding

Stonewater is committed to leading the way in rural housebuilding and in celebration of Rural Housing Week 2019, Stonewater’s Executive Director for Development, Jonathan Layzell, explains why Stonewater is determined to take on the challenge.

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Having grown up myself in a rural community, rural housing is a cause close to my heart.

I started my career as a rural housing enabler. Focussing on delivering much-needed homes to sustain rural communities and enable local people to stay in the communities they know and love, and I remain totally committed to this aspect of our sector’s work.

Rural housing development is often thought of as a niche area with such homes being delivered by smaller, specialist housing associations. But larger organisations, like Stonewater, can, and must, play a key role in providing this type of housing.

Stonewater’s small rural developments across the country offer a mix of tenures ranging from low-cost starter homes to large family houses, with properties for affordable rent, rent to buy or affordable shared ownership.

For example, Stonewater is delighted to have recently started work on a community-led development of 10 affordable homes in South Petherton in South Somerset. These homes are part of Stonewater’s new 34-home development in a rural area with a significant housing shortage and will be allocated on the basis of having a strong local connection and housing needs.

Stonewater’s strategic partnership with Guinness, also means that the two organisations receive £224m of Homes England funding to build 4,500 high-quality, affordable homes by March 2022. The additional funding has enabled Stonewater to extend and accelerate their development plans, bringing forward the building of affordable and social housing including brand new schemes in rural areas right across England.

Stonewater has a successful track record of delivering rural schemes and our extensive expertise and resources as a larger housing provider means we are well placed to deal with the particular challenges inherent in getting rural developments off the ground.

Ensuring that the mix and design of rural housing is right, environmental issues are taken into consideration and local communities are fully on board, are all essential aspects of delivering schemes which will not only meet housing need but help rural communities under threat to survive and thrive.

There is no doubt that building smaller schemes in rural areas can actually bring greater challenges than larger scale projects in big cities and urban communities.
However, the need for affordable housing is so acute in many rural areas, due to the desirability of these areas and the high cost of existing housing, that it is absolutely crucial that larger HAs like Stonewater continue to tackle these challenges head on.

Although the challenges to build homes in rural areas may be greater, the benefits are proportionately greater too – as affordable housing developments can help to secure the future sustainability of a community and its residents.

Providing a relatively small number of affordable homes which meet the needs and aspirations of local people can make the difference between village shops, post offices, pubs, schools and leisure facilities being forced to close, or staying open and available for the wider community.

Part of Stonewater’s commitment to rural communities is the fact that, when we are building a development in such an area, we seek to employ local people, use local suppliers, support the local economy and work with local organisations as much as possible.

Stonewater has been pleased to support Rural Housing Week 2019 and believes passionately in this year’s theme of ‘Building for Rural Communities’.
During the week, our Assistant Development Director, Matthew Crucefix, was delighted to join the panel at the National Housing Federation’s Rural Housing Conference for a session around ‘Delivery and Partnership Working’, alongside representatives from the NHF, South Western Housing Society and Homes England.

Matthew’s personal interest in the specialist area of delivering new homes in rural areas that are both affordable and appropriate to support the long-term sustainability of rural communities, is a vision which all of us at Stonewater share.

We firmly believe that the delivery of small, sensitive affordable housing schemes in rural areas is key to reversing the steady decline of rural life and ensuring a positive future for vibrant rural communities and the sustainable growth of rural facilities and services.

With the investment which has been made by Homes England, these are exciting times for rural housebuilding and Stonewater is proud to be taking up the challenge and leading the way.