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Affordable housing in rural areas
Affordable housing is low-cost housing for rent or sale, usually delivered through a housing association, to meet the needs of local people who cannot find accommodation through the open market.
A lack of affordable housing in rural communities has been a problem for many years. Incomes in rural areas tend to be lower than the regional average which makes it difficult for people working locally to live in the village where they work and high house prices prevent first-time buyers from getting a foothold in the housing market.
More affordable homes in small villages would allow local people of all ages to live and work in rural areas and would support the creation of sustainable communities.
Somerset West and Taunton Council is keen to support and advise rural communities and Parish Councils that wish to develop an affordable housing scheme for local people.
If a Parish Council is aware of local concerns about unmet housing need or the issue of housing need has arisen as part of the Neighbourhood Planning process, then they should consider what action to take.
The delivery of affordable housing is a big project to undertake and can be daunting. The Rural Housing Alliance has published a practical guide for parish councils which can be downloaded from their website and is designed to address some of the questions you may have. Affordable Rural Housing: A practical guide for parish councils.
A summary information flyer of the full guide is also available.
Experience has shown that there is no one single factor that will guarantee the success of a project. However, there are some essential ingredients that have been found to be crucial in providing affordable housing in rural areas. These are covered in this booklet. The enabling team at Somerset West and Taunton can support a community through this process e.g. by carrying out a housing need survey.
There are a number of development options that you can consider. These are described on pages 13 and 14 of the Rural Housing Alliance practical guide.
The most common types of development in the rural areas in Somerset West and Taunton to date involves the Parish Council working in partnership with Somerset West and Taunton and a Housing Association on exception sites or S.106 sites. An alternative to this is for the community to form a Community Land Trust.
There is information in the guide about Community Led Housing and there is separate information on this type of housing on our Community Led Housing page.
Housing Associations, alongside the Council, are the main providers of new affordable housing. There are a number of ways in which they can become involved in a scheme. A landowner might approach one directly and offer to work with them. In other cases a Parish Council might already have a Housing Association/council with properties in the village and decide they want to work with them. There are a number of Housing Associations working in Somerset West and Taunton. They all offer slightly different products but build to high quality standards and the homes will be affordable and remain affordable in perpetuity.
More details about The Housing Association partners working with Somerset West and Taunton can be found on our registered housing providers page.
Rural housing sites
The Council intends as far as possible to plan for meeting affordable housing needs within or adjacent to rural settlements by identifying and prioritising sites for housing development through the site allocations process. There are circumstances where exception sites are considered to meet an identified local housing need. More detail about this can be found within Section 1.10 of the Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document (2014).
Exception sites are plots of land that are not earmarked for development. They normally exist within or on the edge of villages and are designed to meet a proven affordable housing need. The affordable homes will be affordable in perpetuity and local people will have priority.
For more information about affordable rural housing contact:
Somerset West and Taunton Council Affordable Housing Development Team