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SWT enabling rural housing

06 July 2021 : Council news, Community, Housing news

Somerset West and Taunton Council is committed to offering a choice of good quality homes for residents, whatever their age and income, in communities where support is available for those who need it.

As the country marks Rural Housing Week this week the Council is highlighting its work with partners and communities to deliver affordable housing in rural areas.

Rural Housing Week run by the National Housing Federation, the Rural Housing Alliance and Rural Services Network, is an annual celebration of rural housing which reinforces the message that housing is vital for the survival of our rural communities and services.

Cllr Fran Smith, Executive Member for Housing, said: “Here at SWT we are addressing the lack of affordable housing in rural communities by working with parish and town councils, other local authorities and housing associations to increase the number of affordable and social homes in our urban towns, rural and coastal communities.

“We are also building our own stock of affordable housing built to an ambitious energy efficient Zero Carbon standard.

“More affordable homes in small villages will make a real difference to the quality of life for some of our eligible residents allowing local people of all ages to live and work in rural areas while supporting the creation of sustainable communities.”

The Council has a Rural Housing Enabler who works closely with the Exmoor National Park Authority in order to enable, assist and support the development of affordable housing, for local people in the area.

This work includes facilitating new build properties by registered providers, which will produce affordable rented properties for local people, as well as supporting individuals who wish to own their own property through self-build.

In addition, the Rural Housing Enabler manages the Exmoor Rural Housing Network Facebook page to provide regular updates of properties available within the area, useful articles and any other relevant information.

During 2021, the Rural Housing Enabler has been working in partnership with the Exmoor National Park Authority and an Affordable Housing Working Group from eight neighbouring parishes to identify potential sites for development.

Following an online consultation allowing the community to comment on potential sites the Working Group has agreed to progress with five of them and is now in the process of meeting with the landowners to determine what possibilities exist.

Another example of how affordable housing can enhance a rural community is the new development at Broomfield Park, Stoke St Gregory.

The project was originated by Stoke St Gregory Parish Council which was looking for some new housing to help revitalise their community, enabling local people to remain in the village where they have strong links.

A survey was carried out to establish the level of local housing need in the village, and a landowner came forward with an appropriate site.

Following extensive consultation with local people and with advice from SWT, planning permission was sought and approved for 34 dwellings - seven bungalows and 27 houses.

Fourteen of these are affordable homes safeguarded for people with a local connection to Stoke St Gregory. They will be owned and managed by Willow Tree Housing Partnership - seven will be let at a social rent, two will be shared ownership and five will be sold at a discount on open market house prices. All these homes will be affordable in perpetuity and local people will have priority.

The rented homes will be advertised on Homefinder Somerset. If you or anyone you know is interested in applying for a rented home and has a local connection to Stoke St Gregory please register on 
homefindersomerset.co.uk

Shared ownership homes give families an opportunity to buy a percentage of a home and rent the rest. This makes getting a mortgage achievable for people on average or low incomes. To register your interest for a shared ownership home go to: helptobuyagent3.org.uk

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 you would like to find out more, please contact: housingenabling@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk