Effective Way to Sustain our Rural Communities2003

Part 3. Rural Housing Needs 2003

Housing: An Effective Way to Sustain our Rural Communities

Part III: Rural Housing Needs

This project has been supported by the Housing Corporation through its innovation and good practice grant programme. The contents of the report do not necessarily reflect the views of the Housing Corporation.

© Joint copyright remains with the Housing Corporation, Cumbria Rural Housing Trust and Jacqueline Blenkinship.

Plain Language Commission accreditation number: 6088



  • The case for affordable housing
  • About this toolkit
  • Housing and Parish Plans
  • Who should use the toolkit?
  • Defining your community

Step 1: A housing health check

  • Benefits of a health check
  • Health check indicators
  • Housing health check form
  • How did you measure up?

Step 2: Organising a housing needs survey

  • Sources of help and funding

Step 3: Planning a housing needs survey

  • What’s in a survey?
  • The survey report

Step 4: Managing the survey process

  • Project planning
  • Commissioning the survey
  • Publicising the survey
  • Understanding the findings
  • Valid and representative?
  • Evidence of need
  • Reporting findings

Step 5: Action for affordable housing

  • Developing new homes: your role
  • Who develops affordable housing?
  • Tenure options
  • Development opportunities
  • Design matters!
  • How long will development take?
  • Dealing with the opposition



The case for affordable housing
Rural villages need a mix of housing if they are to thrive as balanced, socially inclusive communities where people on average and below-average incomes can live, as well as the better off.

Even in villages and on sites where house building is not normally permitted, the planning system (see Part II) allows small numbers of affordable homes for rent or low-cost home ownership to be provided ‘exceptionally’ for people with a local connection in housing need. This means, for example, those who work in local shops and businesses; young people needing to set up home for the first time; older couples in tied housing facing retirement; and families in insecure and expensive private rented housing.

The key to unlock this route to affordable homes is convincing evidence that households who need to live in your community for work or family reasons cannot buy or rent a suitable home locally, at a price they can afford.



About this toolkit
This toolkit is intended to help parish councils and other local groups understand the role and importance of affordable housing for their community. It explains how to assess local housing needs, and how to work with the local authority and other partners to provide new housing opportunities for people who need to live and work in their village(s).

The toolkit covers the following:
Rural housing health checks: a simple preliminary assessment of the cost, availability and affordability of local housing. The toolkit explains how parish councils and community groups can do this for themselves.

Housing surveys: a more detailed assessment of housing needs, usually carried out on your behalf by the Rural Housing Enabler (RHE), or a private consultant. The guide explains what to expect from a survey, and how to commission and organise one for your community.

Action for affordable housing: there is advice on how to work with key agencies to identify sites and explore the options for providing affordable homes. Of course, a survey in itself is no guarantee either that you will find housing need, or that development will follow.

Rural Housing Enablers
Who are the Rural Housing Enablers? RHEs work with rural communities, local authorities, housing associations and other housing providers to identify rural housing needs and provide affordable homes where they are needed. RHEs usually work with the Rural Community Council.

In Cumbria, Cumbria Rural Housing Trust (CRHT), an independent charity, undertakes the work of the RHE.

CRHT is at:

Redhills House,
Redhills Business Park,
CA11 0DT
Tel: 01768 210264
Website: http://www.crht.org.uk 



Housing and Parish Plans
Assessing housing needs and opportunities could well form part of a Parish Plan – a comprehensive appraisal of community resources and needs supported by funding from the Countryside Agency under its ‘Vital Villages’ programme. Even if you are not intending to produce a Parish Plan, a housing survey will provide very useful information to help you plan the future of your community.



Who should use the toolkit?
The toolkit is written for those who take the lead in preparing the Parish Plan, and assessing the needs of their community. Usually, this will be the parish council; in some cases, other community groups could take on this responsibility. It is important that those involved should be:

representative: drawing help and support from all sections of the community;
accountable: publicising regular, up-to-date information about the project, and encouraging feedback.




Defining your community
Before you go further, there is a very important question you need to answer. You are going to survey the housing needs of your local community – but where are the boundaries of that community, and whom does it include? Is it a village, or a group of villages? One parish, or two neighbouring parishes?

Ultimately, only you can decide this. But you might want to consider the following:

How do other local people define their community?

How self-sufficient is your parish or village? Does it have basic services, such as shop, school, doctors’ surgery and public transport? If the answer is no, you might want to work jointly with the nearest settlement that provides these essential services.
Would it, in any case, be a good idea to get together with your neighbours to survey their village(s), as well as your own? One settlement on its own may not have enough need to justify providing new affordable housing, but two or three neighbouring villages could well support a small scheme.
It may be worth discussing this with the Rural Community Council (RCC) before making a final decision. If you decide to work with other parishes or villages, you must be prepared to put some time into talking with their representatives and convincing them of the benefits.

Assuming they agree to join you, you will need, at an early stage, to set up a project team that is representative of all the villages and settlements involved. This team will be responsible for steering the project to a successful conclusion, and reporting back to the whole community.

Rural Community Councils
Rural Community Councils(RCCs) are charities that promote the welfare of people who live in rural areas. They help rural communities tackle important issues such as transport, housing, schools and the provision of other services, by providing advice and information, and encouraging voluntary effort. In Cumbria, Voluntary Action Cumbria (VAC) undertakes the role of the RCC.

You can contact VAC at:

The Old Stables, Redhills, Penrith CA11 0DT
Tel: 01768 242130
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.ruralcumbria.org.uk



Step 1: A Housing health check

Before you embark on a full-scale housing survey, it is worth taking a little time to carry out a simple housing health check for your parish or village. You might already know that housing is too expensive for local people. You might have noticed that many of the council houses in your villages have been sold. You may be aware of families or young people who have had to move away to find a home they can afford. The housing health check enables you to test your impressions against some hard evidence.




Benefits of a health check
The rural housing health check is easy to do, and there are a number of benefits from doing it yourself:

  • It’s an opportunity to involve others in an issue that could be of vital importance for your community.
  • The information will be of use for other local projects, such as Parish Plans and design statements.
  • It’s a powerful way of making local authorities and funders take you seriously.

Depending on how your community measures up, you will have a good idea of whether it is worth going ahead with a detailed housing survey.




Health check indicators
Your housing health check seeks an answer to this question: Is there enough housing, at the right price, or the right rent levels, for people on local wages who need to live in your community?  ‘Research in Cumbria’ by Cumbria Rural Housing Trust (CRHT) shows that rural communities in need of affordable housing tend to share certain characteristics. CRHT has developed a simple range of indicators that can show if a village or parish is likely to have a housing problem. These indicators form the basis of the health check.

The form on page 8 shows you what’s needed. Much of the information is available online. Website addresses and other useful contacts are in the summary table on page 7.
You’ll need to be consistent and make sure that the information you collect matches your community and its boundaries. Note that some key information available at ward and parish level can be difficult to obtain for a single hamlet or isolated group of dwellings.

Below is some further explanation of the information you’ll need to collect, and where to find it.


Population and household types
This is baseline information for any credible study of your community. It will also tell you how balanced your community is – whether, for example, there is a good mix of younger and older households; whether there are enough children to support the local school.
The most recent Census is your best source. 2001 Census data is to be published at ward, parish and postcode level by the end of 2003.
Cumbria County Council can provide it in electronic or printed form, or you can obtain it online from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) website. Unfortunately, Census data is out of date by the time it’s released. Local authorities publish updated population estimates midway between censuses. After 2005, you would need to look out for these. They are also available on the Neighbourhood Statistics pages of the ONS website.


The cost of setting up home: local house prices and incomes
The health check compares house prices with average incomes. In this way, you can assess whether households on an average income can afford a big enough mortgage to buy in the local housing market.

In many rural areas, rates of home ownership are higher than average, and, compared with urban areas, there may be fewer opportunities to rent from a council or housing association. This means that if people cannot afford to buy, they are going to be at some disadvantage in finding a home of their own.

The key information you’ll need is:

  • the cost of housing;
  • the range of housing available; and
  • average incomes.


Cost of housing
The most authoritative data is available online from the Land Registry website. This data is based on recorded sales, and is produced quarterly.
It shows the average sale price for detached, semi-detached and terraced houses and flats, and the overall average price of a home. It also records the number of sales in each category.


Land Registry data is available at various levels – region, county, local authority etc. – down to postcode sectors. Postcode sectors share the first part of the postcode, and the number, but not the letters of the second part. For example, you can obtain data for all properties sold within the postcode sector CA10 4; LA22 9; and so on.


You’ll need to be aware of a couple of potential problems with Land Registry data:
Best fit: the postcode sector may extend beyond the boundaries of your community. If you’re working with other villages or parishes, they may be in different postcode sectors. In either case, check to see if the postcode sector(s) includes villages or towns outside your study area, where the type and size of housing, or its value, may be significantly different. If so, the house price figures returned by the Land Registry website will not truly reflect prices in your community.
Too few sales: in small areas with few sales, average prices may not be representative. And if the local stately home was sold in the last quarter, you can expect the figure for detached houses to be disproportionately high!



Estate agent survey
Problems with Land Registry data can be overcome by telephoning local estate agents. Most will happily give you information about properties they have marketed in your community over the last six months. While they probably won’t divulge the actual sale price, they will tell you the asking price, as well as the size and type of homes they have sold.

You will need to make a judgement as to whether the Land Registry figures are a good guide to local property prices. If not, use the information from your estate agent survey to make a list of properties recently sold, or coming on to the market, and attach it to the health-check form.

Postcode sector prices from the Land Registry are not always representative…
Lorton, a sought-after village in the Lake District National Park, shares a postcode sector with the nearby market town of Cockermouth, which is outside the boundary of the National Park and has much lower house prices. While the average price of a home in the postcode sector was £95,370 for the quarter ending 31 March 2003, the cheapest home sold in Lorton during that period was £174,000.


Range of housing available
Information from the Land Registry and local estate agents will give you a good idea of how many properties are coming on to the market, and what type they are. You’ll want to look particularly at the availability and price of any terraced and semi-detached houses, which tend to be smaller and cheaper. If the local housing market is mainly detached homes, the opportunities for first-time buyers will be proportionately fewer.

Mortgages and local incomes To buy, a household needs to be able to support a mortgage. If households on average incomes cannot borrow enough money to buy a home in the local market, this may be cause for concern.

To get a mortgage, at least one member of the household must be in steady (as opposed to temporary or seasonal) work. Building societies vary in their approach, but will usually lend up to 3.5 times the annual income of a single-earner household. If there are two earners, they will usually lend three times the main income, plus the second income.

Information on average incomes for Cumbria as a whole is available online from the New Earnings Survey on the ONS website. The figure you need is gross manual earnings, adult full-time rates.

Once you have information about average house prices and average earnings, you can work out if local house prices are affordable by those on the average wage.

Second homes and holiday homes as a proportion of all housing.
Smaller homes in desirable areas such as the Lake District, South Lakeland and the Eden Valley are in demand as second and holiday homes, and often command a price out of proportion to their size. For this reason, villages with a high proportion of second homes present particular problems for first-time buyers.

The proportion of second and holiday homes is produced at parish level as part of census data – although it’s worth remembering that, with a ten-year interval between censuses, the situation can change significantly. Also, the proportion of second homes does vary from village to village, and the boundaries of your health check area may not be exactly the same as for a particular parish or parishes. In this case, it is a good idea to undertake a count of second and holiday homes in the settlements that make up your community.

Council and housing association housing.
Local incomes in rural Cumbria are often well below average, and some people have to rely on temporary or seasonal work. In this case, the only option may be a rented home. Housing associations and councils (often known as social landlords) charge lower rents than most private landlords. They offer greater security, because their tenancies are not time-limited. In rural areas, social landlords tend to give priority to people with a local connection. For those who cannot afford to buy, they offer the best chance of finding a decent home.

You’ll need the numbers of council and housing association homes, as a total, and as a proportion of the housing stock. On average, almost 20% of homes in England and Wales are ‘social rented’ housing – i.e. they’re rented from a council or housing association. However, this figure can be much lower in rural areas. Some housing associations provide homes for sale on a shared-ownership basis (part rent, part buy). Where property values are high, this is a way of making home ownership more affordable for first-time buyers. So you’ll also need to check if there is any housing of this type in your village.

The census does provide information about council and housing association homes, but in the past it has proved unreliable because households completing the census form don’t always put their landlord in the right category. Fortunately, information on the number of homes owned by social landlords for each parish is available on CRHT’s website. This information is regularly updated, so it takes account of new developments, or sales under the Right to Buy, etc.

Information Purpose Source Contact details
Population and number of households/dwellings Baseline information. Shows whether the community contains a balance of households in different age groups, sufficient children and young people to guarantee its future, etc. 2001 Census parish data (online) Cumbria County Council (CCC) parish profiles Neighbourhood Statistics website: www.statistics.gov.uk CCC: www.cumbria.gov.uk Tel:                01228 606309        
Local house prices for the last two quarters: average for each category and overall* Shows whether households on  average incomes can afford to buy. Land Registry (online); use the results of an estate agent survey if the Land Registry postcode sector is not representative of house prices in your community, and append a list of properties Land Registry Website www.landreg.gov.uk
The average weekly manual wage for the county Shows whether households on  average income can afford a  mortgage to buy locally. New Earnings Survey: full-time adult average manual wage (Cumbria) www.statistics.gov.uk
Second and holiday homes as % of all homes High levels of second and holiday homes generally mean high house prices, particularly for smaller properties, and fewer opportunities to rent privately. Household spaces and accommodation type table, 2001 Census data, available at ward and parish level. CCC parish profiles National Statistics website: www.statistics.gov.uk Cumbria County Council CCC: www.cumbria.gov.uk Tel:                01228 606309        
Council and housing association homes for rent and shared ownership as % of all homes Indicates opportunities to rent at below market rents, with security of tenure; or to buy at below open market cost. Cumbria Rural Housing Trust (CRHT) www.crht.com Tel:                01768 210264        
Homes owned by charitable trusts, local employers, National Trust and let to local people at below Indicates opportunities for renting at below market rent Local intelligence (CRHT) www.crht.com Tel:                01768 210264        
*To calculate the average: for each quarter, multiply the number of properties sold by the average price to obtain the total value of sales. Add together the totals for each quarter, and divide by the total number of sales for both quarters. You’ll need to make this calculation separately for each sales category (i.e. terraced, semi-detached, detached, overall) market rent as % of stock

Other sources of affordable housing for local people

Charitable trusts
Besides councils and housing associations, some charitable organisations provide rural housing at affordable rents. Examples in Cumbria are the Lakeland Housing Trust, which has properties in several villages in South Lakeland; Bampton Housing Trust (Bampton); and the Great Cross Trust (Grasmere). All three acquire existing houses and cottages, and let them to people who need to live locally for work or family reasons.


The Forestry Commission, some outdoor education centres, and a few large estates continue to provide homes for their employees at reasonable rents.


The National Trust
In some parts of the Lake District, the National Trust is a major landlord. It, too, charges less than market rents, and gives some priority to local people.

Your best source of information about these landlords may be local intelligence. They are all providing a valuable service to local people who cannot afford to buy. Their homes should be included, along with council and housing association properties, in the total amount of rented housing available for local people in need.


Local information
There’s space on the form for you to include any other information you think is useful and relevant to an assessment of housing opportunities in your local area. Some examples are:

  • New housing developments: has any new housing recently been built in the village? Was it high value ‘executive’ homes? Did it include any homes that first-time buyers might be able to afford?
  • What do you know about the supply of privately rented properties and rents charged in the private sector?
  • Do you have hard evidence of households leaving because they cannot afford to set up home in the immediate locality?





Housing health check form

Date completed   Completed by  
On behalf of      
Settlements/villages in health check area      
Vital statistics
Total population   Total no. of households  
Housing profile Housing to rent for locals at below market rents (housing association, council, charitable trust, National Trust, local employers, etc); or low-cost home ownership (LCHO)
Housing stock (nos.)   Landlord Rent or LCHO No. of homes
% homes for rent for local people        
Second & holiday homes as % of all housing        
Affordability assessment  
Average weekly income  
Mortgage affordable (income x 3.5)  
Average house price (all types) last 6 months & no. of sales   £
Average house price (terraced and semi-detached) last 6 months and no. of sales   £
Ratio of income to average house price, all homes  
Ratio of income to average terraced/semi-detached price  
Health check summary Yes/No
Ratio of income to price of average terraced/semi-det.: more than 1:3.5?  
More than 15% of homes second or holiday homes?  
Less than 15% of the housing stock available to local people at below market rents or LCHO?  
Other information Include any other local information that may be relevant (for example, shortage of smaller homes; evidence of families moving away; high private-sector rents; recruitment difficulties for local businesses because of lack of affordable housing)




How did you measure up?
The final section of the form asks you to answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to three questions, based on the data you’ve collected.
If you find that you’ve answered ‘Yes’ to the first question (ratio of house prices to average incomes), and to at least ONE of the other two, it is likely that people on average and below-average incomes will have some difficulty finding a home they could afford in your community. It is well worth doing a more detailed housing needs survey.
Otherwise, it may not be worth doing a housing survey at this stage, but it is a good idea to repeat the health check every year or so – even sooner, if the housing market is rising rapidly. A sudden jump in house prices, or increased demand for second homes, could make local homes much less affordable in a very short time.


However you fared in the health check, the time spent putting the information together will not have been wasted. You have a really useful housing profile, and a baseline for tracking future change.


Step 2: Organising a housing needs survey

If the housing health check suggests there may be some shortage of affordable housing – that is, if you said ‘Yes’ to two or more of the three test questions – your next priority will be a housing needs survey of your parish or village. The toolkit explains how to commission, fund and organise a housing needs survey; and how to enlist the support of other organisations with responsibility for planning and meeting the housing needs of rural communities.


Sources of help and funding

A strategic move
Each local council is responsible for identifying the housing needs of their area – including rural needs – and planning how to meet them through their housing strategy. The information you collected for the health check will be useful and important for the housing strategy, as well as supporting your case for a local housing needs survey. So, the first person who can help may be the housing strategy officer of your local council. If the housing strategy officer can’t help, you could go straight to the Rural Housing Enabler.

Rural Housing Enablers
The housing strategy officer (or you, if you take this step yourself) should get in touch with the Rural Housing Enabler (RHE), who will then work directly with you to arrange the housing needs survey. This route is one-stop, very simple, and offers several advantages:

  • RHEs have considerable experience of rural housing surveys, which means their questionnaires and research methods are tried and tested;
  • you’ll be involved in the whole process from start to finish;
  • you can be confident that you will end up with a quality independent survey, which will carry weight with planners, housing associations and the district council; and
  • because housing surveys are part of the core work programme of RHEs, the survey will be carried out at no cost to you.

Vital Villages: Parish Plan Grants
The Vital Villages scheme operated by the Countryside Agency offers another option. The scheme provides grants of up to £5,000 to help rural communities produce Parish Plans. Parish Plans say how you would like your community to develop in future. They identify the key issues you need to address to turn that vision into reality. Providing affordable housing for people linked to the community through work or close family and social ties is one of those issues. So carrying out a housing needs survey could be a fundamental part of your Parish Plan.

Parish Plan Grants
The £5,000 grant covers up to 75% of the cost of preparing the Parish Plan, including:

  • consultants’ fees;
  • research;
  • community consultations;
  • photography, printing, publication and display costs.

The remaining 25% must be provided by the community, but only 5% of this need be cash. Up to 80% can be contributions in kind – work carried out by volunteers; time given at no cost by consultants, etc. More information is available on the Countryside Agency website at www.countryside.gov.uk/vitalvillages/. Or you can phone its helpline on 0870 333 0170, or contact your local Countryside Agency Office.

Going it alone
As a last resort – that is, in the unlikely event that neither of the routes outlined above is open to you – you could commission a private consultant to carry out the survey. You would have to pay for this yourself, as well as drawing up the brief and managing the consultant. If you can’t get support from your local council, the RHE, or the Countryside Agency, you would have to think seriously about whether it was worth going ahead.


Step 3: Planning a housing needs survey

In this section, we explain what you can expect from a housing needs survey, and the practical steps that will make sure it is successful. It covers:

  • What’s in a survey: your guide to survey methods, confidentiality, and reporting.
  • Planning the project from start to finish.
  • Survey findings: how to interpret and publicise them.


What’s in a survey?

Overall aims
You expect a rural housing needs survey to provide evidence of households who need and want to move, or to set up home for the first time, within your parish or village, and can’t afford to buy on the open market. However, good surveys do much more than this. The final report should explain the findings on housing need in terms of what they mean for the community as a whole. So it should include information on population change, rural services, and the local economy, as well as the local housing market.

By having your RHE or a consultant do the survey, you can be sure that it is independent and objective, as well as professional. This is important: surveys by developers, housing associations, or anyone with a vested interest in the outcome would not carry the same weight. For the same reasons, a DIY approach is not recommended.

A model survey
District-wide housing surveys rely on sampling techniques to target a small percentage of the population, which is taken to be representative
of the whole. These methods are less effective in small communities. In a rural village or group of villages, more reliable results are obtained by
surveying all the households in the community.

A tried and tested model is a two-part survey form distributed to every household.

Part One collects basic information about the number and ages of people in the household, type of housing (including second-home ownership), how long the household has lived in the village, and where they moved from. It also invites respondents to give their views on the need for affordable housing, and any future development of rented or low-cost home ownership homes.

Part Two is designed for anyone who needs to find another home in the community within the next few years. It asks more detailed questions – about income; capital, or equity in an existing home; employment; type of housing required; special needs, including the need for r etirement housing, or a home adapted for a disabled family member. The ‘Estimating housing need’ section shows how this information is analysed to show the number of households in the community who need affordable (rented or low-cost home ownership) housing.

The Part Two form can be made available to people who’ve already had to leave the community because they couldn’t find a home they could afford, as well as existing residents.

People who’ve had to leave can be encouraged to complete survey forms
The milkman in the small community in and around Stair in the Lake District National Park could not afford to buy a home in the valley.

He moved to a market town some 30 miles away, where properties are much cheaper. He now has to make a 40-minute journey every day to begin his milk round.

Strict rules about confidentiality govern the way survey information is handled and reported. Respondents to the survey need not give their name unless they wish to do so. In addition:

  • The survey forms will be covered by the Data Protection Act. They are seen and handled only by the consultant or RHE.
  • Once the survey is completed, the forms cannot be used for any other purpose. They will be kept securely for five years, and then shredded.
  • It will not be possible to identify individuals from the survey report. Sometimes, this may mean a conscious decision not to report directly certain findings which might single out a particular household – for example, the fact that they live in a caravan, or have a disabled child.


The survey report
The housing needs survey will provide a snapshot of the need for affordable housing in your community. Without identifying individuals, it will tell you:

  • The number and type of households needing to find another home.
  • How many would need to rent, and how many could afford low-cost home ownership.
  • The type of housing required: for example, two and three-bedroom houses; two-bedroom bungalows; and whether there is a need for sheltered housing or specially adapted homes for someone with a disability.

Some reports also make a population-based estimate of the number of new households (commonly young single people and couples) likely to need to set up home in your community over the next few years.

In addition, a good survey report gives you key information about the community as a whole, including: Population: the age structure of the population is compared with the census data, to check that the survey is representative of the community as a whole, and identify any groups who might be under-represented. It’s also useful to compare the age structure with the figures for the county as a whole. This can help identify factors that are important for the health and sustainability of the community, and the services it requires (for example, by highlighting an unusually high proportion of retired people; the small numbers of families with children and young adults, etc.)

Trends in migration: the numbers and type of households moving into a village or parish in recent years, and where they have come from, is an important indicator of changes in demand and competition for housing, as well as predicting the future make-up of the community. Also, survey respondents are invited to give information on family members leaving to live elsewhere, and the reasons why they left.

A study of the local housing market: this will cover the range of homes for sale, and recent house prices; trends in the market as perceived by local estate agents; opportunities to rent privately, and the cost of private sector rents; opportunities to rent from a social landlord. You may already have provided some of this information as part of your housing health check.

Local services and employment: a good housing needs survey will take into account access to basic services, such as shops and schools, health care and public transport, social and leisure opportunities. By assessing the opportunities for work locally, it will consider how affordable housing can support the local economy.

Estimating housing need

The housing needs survey collects essential information from each household wishing to move. Their needs are assessed on the basis of the following questions:

  • How serious is their housing need? Broadly, households are considered in serious housing need if they have expressed a wish to move immediately, or within 12 months AND their present housing is unsuitable. For example:
    • it’s too small for their needs;
    • it’s an insecure private rented or tied tenancy;
    • it’s too expensive;
    • they have to share with another household;
    • they need sheltered housing, or a home adapted for a disabled person.
  • Can they afford to buy the kind of home they need on the open market? For existing home owners, this depends on equity in their present home, as well as the size of mortgage they can afford. For first-time buyers, can they support a mortgage? Would a mortgage of 3.5 times their annual income be enough to buy a suitable property locally on the open market?
  • Would it be reasonable for them to rent privately? To be affordable, private rents should be no more than 25% of net income.
  • Could they afford low-cost home-ownership (such as shared ownership – a part rent/part buy option offered by housing associations)? The test is whether they want to buy, and could afford a mortgage equal to 75% of the likely value of a shared-ownership home (which is always cheaper than a home sold on the open market, because it is subject to a local occupancy restriction).

‘People with a local connection in housing need’ – some examples

Clare is 28 and teaches in a primary school in a village in the upper Eden Valley. She earns £20,000 a year. She travels from Lancaster, where she rents a small terrace house for £400 a month, making a daily round trip of over 60 miles. The village where she works is a popular holiday destination, and the smallest two-bedroomed cottage costs at least £120,000. Clare has savings of £5,000, and could borrow up to £70,000. The most she can afford to pay is £75,000.

Clare could afford low-cost home ownership. 50% shared ownership, or shared equity, would help her buy her first home.

For 35 years, Jack and Mary have been tenants of a farm owned by United Utilities on the eastern edge of the Lake District National Park. They are due to retire next year, and will have to leave the farmhouse. They would ideally like to stay in the parish where they have lived and worked, but with only a pension to live on, they cannot afford to buy. There are a few council bungalows in the village, but the last letting was two years ago, and they are not confident that a vacancy will come up at the right time for them.

Jack and Mary need a secure home at a rent they can afford. A housing association bungalow would be their best option.

Michael is 31, and lives in a village on the northern edge of the Lake District national park. He has two part-time jobs: he works in the local garage, and serves behind the bar in the pub. He earns about £220 a week. Michael still lives with his parents. He would like to set up home on his own, but buying is out of the question on his wages. The few remaining council houses in the village are for families, and private properties to rent cost around £100 a week, which is nearly half his income.

Michael also needs a secure home to rent, as he cannot afford even low-cost home ownership at present.

June has two children aged six and two, lives in a small market town in the heart of the Lake District National Park, and works part-time in the local health centre as a receptionist, earning about £160 a week. Working Family Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit take her weekly income to £290. She pays £80 a week childcare costs for the younger child. June lives in a private rented two-bedroomed flat, which is small, and has no garden for the children. The tenancy could be ended by the landlord on two months’ notice. The rent is £95 a week, which June pays entirely out of her income. Following a recent divorce, June has around £50,000 capital from the sale of her matrimonial home and ‘clean break’ settlement with her former partner. She needs a three-bedroom home, and would ideally like to buy, but in the town where she lives, even ex-council houses sell for over £100,000.

June could use her capital to buy at least a 50% share of a shared-ownership property. Rent on the rest would be about £35.00, leaving her £60.00 a week better off, besides having a stake in the housing market.

Step 4: Managing the survey process

Project planning
Once you know who will undertake your housing survey, you’ll need to turn your attention to some practicalities. This section of the toolkit covers:

  • project-planning: your guide to the main stages in a survey, timescales, roles and responsibilities;
  • commissioning the survey: how to work with the RHE and your consultant to get a really useful survey delivered on time and at an agreed cost;
  • publicising the survey: advice on how to ensure a good return rate;
  • reporting findings: publishing the survey report and organising a feedback meeting with the community and key partners.

Roles and responsibilities
Local housing surveys are successful to the extent that the parish council or community group takes ownership of them. It is important that you are seen to lead the process and support it wholeheartedly.

As with all major projects, it makes sense to nominate one member of your group as the main contact and project manager. This doesn’t mean that they will do all the work themselves, but they will have overall responsibility for co-ordinating the survey and making sure it stays on track and on time.

The RHE (and/or consultant, if used) will:

  • meet you at the commissioning stage to agree the brief, cost and timescale for the work;
  • provide survey forms and pre-paid envelopes for the return of completed forms;
  • analyse the data, prepare a draft report, agree it with you, and produce the final version;
  • attend the feedback meeting to present the report and answer questions about the research.

Stages in a survey
From start to finish, a local housing needs survey involves the following stages:

  • commissioning: agreeing how, in what timescale, and (if applicable) for what cost the work will be done;
  • publicity campaign: essential to ensure a good return rate! ;
  • printing survey forms;
  • distribution and return of survey forms;
  • information-gathering, analysis of forms, and report-writing;
  • finalising the draft report;
  • printing and distributing the final report;
  • feedback meeting: to discuss the results and decide next steps.

You, as the owners of the survey, will:

  • organise publicity;
  • distribute forms;
  • help the RHE or consultant with local information and intelligence (for example, about local services and community activities; any major private landlords; local firms and businesses);
  • check and agree the draft report; and distribute the final version;
  • organise and publicise the feedback meeting, to make sure you get a good attendance.

Scheduling key activities
A housing needs survey is a large and complex project. It’s a good idea to make a project plan that identifies the tasks, timescales and people responsible for each stage of the survey. Here are the most important activities your plan will need to take account of:

Publicity: The time taken will depend on the methods you choose. For example, if you intend to advertise the survey in the parish newsletter, you will need to think when the next copy deadline is due. You may decide to distribute the survey forms at the same time as the newsletter.

Deciding the timing: some communities avoid sending out survey forms in the main summer holiday period, because many people are away – and in some communities, you may get a lot of returns from holidaymakers and second-home owners.
Distributing survey forms: it is a great advantage to distribute forms by hand, door to door. This is your chance to publicise the survey personally, and experience shows that it really does improve the return rate. If forms can be sent out with, say, the parish newsletter, then you can do two jobs at the same time. Of course, if you are surveying a number of widely scattered settlements, or if volunteer labour and time is scarce, this may not be practical. In that case, surveys can be posted out by the RHE or consultant, and all you will need to do is provide a list of addresses (from the electoral roll).

Deadline for return of completed forms: you’ll need to strike a balance between an unrealistically short deadline, and one that’s too far in the future (which just  encourages people to put the form aside and lose it!). Three or four weeks is a safe time to allow.

Analysis and report writing: you’ll need to be guided by the RHE and/or consultant. Be flexible enough to allow for the fact that they might have other work, but not so flexible that you have to wait an age for the final report. Two to three months from the closing date for the return of forms is reasonable. You should ask to see a draft report so that you can raise any queries and allow for amendments, before the final version is produced. So you will need to add at least another couple of weeks for this.

Printing and distribution: allow time for printing the final report, and sending copies out to everyone who needs to see it.

Reading time: this is sometimes overlooked! It is unrealistic to expect intelligent discussion of a large and data-rich report if it was only sent out
the day before. So allow people at least a week to read and digest the housing survey before you invite them to talk further about it.

Feedback meeting: You might want to think, even at this early stage, about a date for the feedback meeting. Obviously, it can’t happen before all the stages outlined above have taken place, but if you wait too long, you will lose impetus and enthusiasm.


Commissioning the survey

Setting a clear brief
Setting a clear brief is the best way of ensuring that you end up with a really useful survey. You will need to set up a commissioning meeting with the RHE (and the consultant, if you use one) to make sure that everyone involved is clear about:

the overall aims of the survey;

  • the information required, and the methods used to collect it;
  • what will be included in the final report;
  • the timescale for undertaking the various stages in the work;
  • the cost of the survey, if you are paying for it;
  • the broad division of responsibilities between you and the consultant/RHE.

In setting the brief, the What’s in a Survey? section of this toolkit is your guide. Working with the RHE is an advantage, because he or she will already be familiar with these standards.

If you are lucky, the cost of your survey will be met from the RHE’s work programme. If, on the other hand, you are paying a consultant, perhaps because the housing survey is part of your Parish Plan, you will have to agree a cost for the work. The cost is made up of the consultants’ time, plus the cost of printing, stationery, travel, etc. See the panel below for more details.

Ask to see a breakdown of the total cost. Check that the number of days estimated for analysing the data and producing the report looks reasonable. Your RHE, the RCC, and the Countryside Agency will all have a good idea of the daily rates charged by consultants for this type of work. It is worth asking about this in advance of your commissioning meeting, so that you know what to expect, and what is a fair rate for the job.

Costing a survey
The cost of a survey will include the following items:

  • printing survey forms;
  • stationery (paper and envelopes);
  • postage for returning survey forms (and for sending them out, if you choose to post rather than hand-deliver);
  • printing the finished report;
  • consultant time (expressed as a number of days, multiplied by a daily rate) to analyse the survey and produce the report;

If you are claiming a Parish Plan grant from the Countryside Agency towards the costs, you will be able to count time spent organising meetings and delivering forms as your contribution ‘in kind’.

Put it all in writing!
After the meeting with the RHE and the consultant, make sure that you confirm what you have agreed in writing. You’ll find an example of a simple letter below.

A letter sets out what you have agreed with the consultant doing the survey

Dear x

This is to confirm that (name of parish council or group commissioning the survey) has asked you to carry out a housing needs survey of  (name of community), for a cost of £xxxx. The survey will take place between (date) and (date). The final report will be available for distribution by (date).

The survey will identify any need for affordable housing among households living in (name all settlements in survey area). The final report will also include detailed information on housing opportunities and costs in the local housing market, and an overview of local services and employment opportunities.

You will be responsible for analysing the data and producing a draft report by (date). You will provide printed questionnaires and pre-paid envelopes by (date) which we will distribute to every household in (name of settlements) OR: You will be responsible for sending out forms and pre-paid envelopes by post to a list of addresses which we will provide. Completed questionnaires will be returned directly to you.

You will provide us with x bound and printed copies of the final report by (date) OR (depending on what you have agreed): You will provide us with the final report in electronic form/on disk by (date), and we will be responsible for printing and binding.

(Name of main contact/project manager) will act as your contact on behalf of (parish council or community group).

We look forward to working with you on the project.


Publicising the Survey

You’ll want to make sure that everyone in your community knows the survey is happening, and you want to encourage them to return their forms on time. Here are some tried and tested publicity methods that have worked well in other rural housing surveys. Of course, this doesn’t stop you using your own good ideas.

Covering letter
It’s a good idea to send out a short covering letter with the forms, signed by the chair of the parish council or community group.

Posters and flyers
An eye-catching poster campaign is an effective way of drawing attention to the survey. Besides local notice boards, you can put posters in the local shop, the doctor’s surgery, the pub, etc. Flyers – which can be small format posters – can be circulated with the parish magazine, the local free paper, etc. Your RHE will probably have examples you can borrow or adapt.

Local radio and the local press
Why not publicise the survey on local radio, and ask the local paper to carry an advertisement?

Public meetings and word of mouth
Make sure all the members of the group take every opportunity to spread the word about the survey – by mentioning it at other meetings, or simply in conversation.

On the doorstep
If you deliver the forms by hand, this is a great opportunity to chat to people about the survey and explain the importance of getting their form back on time. The increase in return rate will repay the time you spend.

A covering letter sent out with the survey forms shows that you ‘own’ the survey and encourages a good return rate.

Housing survey for (names of settlements)
(Name of parish council or community group) is concerned that people who need to live in (settlement names) for work or family reasons may have to leave because they cannot find a home they can afford locally.

We have asked (name of RHE or consultant) to carry out a housing needs survey, in order to identify any need for rented or low-cost home ownership housing in our community. We’d be very grateful if you could take a little time to complete the attached form. The information you provide is confidential. Completed forms are returned direct to (RHE or consultant), and will not be seen by anyone else. The final report will take care not to identify individuals.

The survey is in two parts. Part One collects basic information from every household. Part Two should be completed by anyone who expects to need another home in the parish within the next few years. This includes single people and couples who may be living with parents at present, but want to set up an independent home of their own.

We are also keen to include people who may have had to leave (name of village or villages) because they could not find a suitable home they could afford. If you know of family members or friends who have left for this reason and would like to return, please make sure they are given a copy of the Part Two form to complete. Extra forms are available from (address and telephone number of nominated person).

Please help us to make a success of the survey by completing your form and returning it to (consultant/RHE) by the closing date of (date).

A good response will give us a clear picture of housing needs in the parish, and help us plan for the future of our community.

When the survey is complete, we will hold a public meeting to discuss the findings. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the survey, please contact (name and phone no.)

Thank you once again for your help.


Understanding the findings
A housing needs survey in itself is no guarantee either that you will find evidence of need, or that new affordable housing will be provided. However, the final report should tell you clearly:

  • how many households in the village need housing and can’t realistically afford to buy on the open market;
  • if there are households in need, the type of households (young single people; elderly people; families, etc.) and what kind of housing they need: specifically, whether it’s rented housing, or low-cost home ownership, or a mixture of both; and an indication of the size and type of homes;
  • (possibly) an estimate of new households likely to set up home in the parish over the next few years;
  • whether any existing housing in the community – rented homes managed by a council or housing association, or low-cost housing to buy – could meet the needs identified by the survey.


Valid and representative?

Is the survey valid? Two important questions are:

  • Did enough people send back completed forms to allow you to draw reliable conclusions?
  • Were the returns representative of the population as a whole? Or were some groups under - or over - represented?

A return rate of around 40% is average for a rural housing survey, and compares very favourably with other types of postal surveys, which generally have return rates of below 30%. If you achieve over 35%, you can have confidence in the results. Below 30%, and you would need to consider if some groups were under-represented.

By comparing the population structure of survey respondents with census data, you can find out if the households returning forms are representative of the population as a whole, or if some groups were less likely to return forms.

Ask your RHE or consultant if the reliability of the survey findings is affected by this, or any other factors.

Parish councils and community groups are sometimes disappointed when a survey shows only a few households in need. However, a well­ publicised household survey with a return rate broadly representative of the population as a whole is the best, and the most objective evidence that you are likely to obtain. It counts for more than anecdotes, or ‘gut feeling’. It’s worth remembering that the survey prompts people to say that they are in need of another home. Those in need – even those with aspirational and tentative plans to move – are more likely than not to return a Part Two form. For this reason, your RHE or consultant will resist pressure to gross up the need in line with the proportion of households returning forms. This would not be statistically sound or credible.

The shelf-life of a survey
Communities and housing markets change fast. This means that the findings of a housing needs survey have only a limited life. A survey more than three years old would be considered out of date by planning and housing authorities, and should be repeated.

Evidence of need
How much need constitutes a housing problem for your community?

Not surprisingly, there is no fixed threshold, so the guidelines below are approximate. You will need to discuss your findings with the local council’s housing and planning department and your local strategic partnership (LSP), if one exists. They will want to take account of other local information, strategies and initiatives: for example, local plan policies on rural housing; any plans for new rural enterprises or business development which might lead to increased demand for affordable housing etc.

If the survey identifies up to five households, this suggests a low level of need. It is unlikely that evidence on this scale would convince planners and housing providers to provide more homes for rent or shared ownership, because the development might not be sustainable – that is, it might prove difficult to find people to live there in the long term. Occasionally, such a small-scale need could be met by buying one or two existing properties. This would usually be done through a housing association.

Between five and ten households in need might justify development, but only if there is no other rented or low-cost home ownership housing within a radius of a few miles which would be suitable. Your RHE or consultant should already have considered whether a very small need could be met from existing housing association or council properties in your village, or perhaps in a nearby settlement.

With ten or more households in need, you could argue with some confidence that your community needs new affordable housing. Your district council needs to ensure that your community’s requirements are built into its housing strategy. You can kick-start this by inviting the housing strategy officer, a representative of the planning department, and local councillors to your feedback meeting.

Do not expect that any development will necessarily meet 100% of the housing need identified in the survey. Fifty to seventy-five percent is more usual. Developers tend to provide fewer homes than the headline figure, to avoid any risk that they will remain empty or unsold, or be occupied by people who are not connected to the local community.

Buying an existing property – the answer to small-scale need
A housing survey in Nether Kellet (north Lancashire) identified a household in danger of losing its private rented home because the landlord planned to sell.  Instead, a housing association bought the property, and the tenant was able to remain there.


Reporting findings
It’s important that everyone in the community hears about the findings. The best way is to call a public meeting. The RHE and/or the consultant responsible for the survey and the final report should attend this meeting to present their findings and answer questions on the report. Besides giving everyone in the local community the chance to attend, there are some key people who should be invited.

Send a copy of the report, and an invitation to the meeting, to the following:

  • the housing strategy officer and chief planning officer of your local council;
  • your local ward councillor(s);
  • the chief executive of any housing association who owns property in the survey area;
  • the chair of any local strategic partnership, regeneration partnership, neighbourhood forum, or any other group which is working on sustainability or regeneration for your community;
  • the Rural Community Council.

In this way, you can make sure that the findings from your housing needs survey are brought to the attention of those responsible for housing and community development; and that the needs of your community are included in their future plans.

Step 5: Action for affordable housing

So the housing needs survey shows that there are people in your community who need affordable housing. What are the options for providing homes to meet their needs? This section of the toolkit covers the following:

  • Developing new homes: your role during the development phase.
  • Developers: who builds and manages affordable rural housing?
  • Tenure options: a guide to the different tenures (rent, shared ownership, etc); and which developers provide them.
  • Development opportunities: advice on finding sites or existing buildings to convert; on design issues, and possible ‘planning gain’.
  • The timescale for development: we explain the main factors that can influence the time it takes to complete your affordable housing scheme.
  • Dealing with the opposition.


Developing new homes: your role
Once your local authority and RHE have agreed that your community needs more affordable housing, they will help identify the options for development, and they will bring a suitable developer on board. The developer will be responsible for seeing the scheme through to completion, including securing grant funding (if required); obtaining planning permission; organising building work, etc.

This doesn’t mean that you have no further role! In particular, you can be of great help in identifying potential sites and development opportunities. In general, you will want to ensure that:

  • you are kept informed about the progress of the scheme;
  • you keep the rest of the community updated about what is happening, through articles in the parish newsletter, meetings, etc;
  • the site and design of any new homes are acceptable;
  • the scheme goes forward without unnecessary delays.

You can also play a vital role in promoting the benefits of the scheme, and dealing constructively with any ‘Nimby’ opposition. There’s more about this in the final section.


Who develops affordable housing?
The choice will probably be between a private developer and a housing association (sometimes called a registered social landlord or RSL).

Private developers build homes and convert existing buildings to sell at a profit. Once a development is completed and sold, they have no further interest in it.
Housing associations are non-profit-making independent organisations set up specifically to help people in housing need. They provide homes for rent and for shared ownership (part rent, part buy – see below), and as well as developing them in the first place, they are responsible for their future management. If a housing association provides housing for your community, you can expect to have a long-term relationship with them.

The cost of homes provided by a housing association is met partly through private borrowing, and partly through government grants. As a condition of public funding, housing associations are approved and regulated by the Housing Corporation. They are publicly accountable, and must adhere to strict standards.

For any development on an exceptions site, for rented homes, and for most forms of low-cost home ownership, a housing association or housing trust is the most likely partner.

Two other possibilities are worth mentioning:

Community investment trusts: a new concept designed to support community action by raising funds for social purposes. Community investment trusts can offer low-interest loans that allow people to increase their borrowing potential.
Housing trusts: these tend to be small local projects, often run by charities. Using donations, grants and legacies, they acquire existing homes and rent them to local people. Trusts generally work with very low overheads, and can rent their properties at very reasonable rents.

Tenure options

How many homes?
As a general rule, a developer will aim to meet 50-75% of the need identified in your survey. Remember that this will not necessarily be the same as the headline number of households needing affordable housing. That headline figure will be adjusted to take account of any existing opportunities to rent or buy a suitably sized home in the immediate area.

The choice of tenure will depend first and foremost on what the households you’ve identified can afford. Basically, there are three options:

  • outright sale;
  • low-cost home ownership;
  • social rent. These are explained in more detail below. Depending on the need, you may find that your development includes a mix of tenures.

Local and affordable
Whatever the tenure choice, the development will be subject to a Section 106 local occupancy agreement between the developer and the local planning authority. This ensures that people who live and work locally take priority over anyone else for the completed homes. The local occupancy agreement continues to apply whenever properties are re-let, or re-sold, as well as on the first letting or sale. At the same time, restricting potential purchasers to people with a local connection keeps the price of owner-occupied homes below open market value.

Tenure option 1: outright sale
This option will most often be delivered by a private developer, and will entail the development of land or redundant buildings. The developer will aim to make a profit by selling the new homes for more than it cost to buy the site and do the building work.

The planning policies for your area will determine which sites are considered suitable. However, homes for open market sale cannot be provided on exceptions sites. The size of the homes will often be agreed in advance with the planning authority. Size and location together will determine the price of the homes provided, and hence their affordability.

Tenure option 2: low-cost home ownership
This means that the homes are sold at below market value. There are several ways this can be achieved.

Through a private developer

Current planning policies require developers to provide a proportion, or ‘quota’ of affordable housing on most sites where housing for outright sale is being provided. The affordable housing is often subsidised by the profits from the sale of the other homes. Properties are sold at anywhere between 50% and 80% of their open market value. The percentage sale figure will be negotiated between the developer and the planning authority. The remaining percentage remains unsold in perpetuity. If and when properties are re-sold, the same terms apply, and in this way, the price is kept permanently below market price.

Through a housing association

Housing associations can provide homes for sale on a shared-ownership or equity-share basis. Shared-ownership and equity-share homes can also be part of an agreement to provide a quota of affordable housing on an open market site.

Shared ownership and equity share: two ways of keeping home ownership affordable.
With shared ownership, the purchaser, who must usually be a first-time buyer, buys between 25% and 75% of the property on a long lease, and pays rent to the housing association on the rest. In rural areas, the maximum share can be restricted to 80%. There are also special rules in schemes for the over 55’s, where the maximum share can be 75%, and no rent is charged on the remaining 25%.

When the shared owner moves on, they will benefit from any increase in the value of their share of the property. However, the value will always be below open market value, because of the local occupancy agreement.

In equity share schemes, the buyer purchases a percentage of the freehold. The actual cost can be anywhere between 40% and 80% of the value, and there is no rent. The housing association retains control of the unsold proportion of the property. When the property is re-sold, the seller benefits from any growth in the value of their share, as for shared ownership.

Social rent
Social rented properties will most often be provided by a housing association. They, too, can be part of a required quota of affordable housing on an open market site.
Renting from a housing association offers several advantages:

  • The tenancy is not time-limited.
  • The rent is kept below open market rents, through a formula set by the Housing Corporation.
  • The standards of management and maintenance are regulated by the Housing Corporation, who will check from time to time to ensure that the housing association complies with its requirements.
  • The housing association’s lettings policy will ensure priority for people with a local connection, in accordance with any Section 106 agreement.


Development opportunities
Local knowledge is often the best source of information about available sites, properties and buildings. Difficulty finding sites is one of the main reasons why rural housing development is delayed – sometimes for years. An organised approach by your local group can cut these delays to a minimum. The exercise has another advantage: it provides an ideal opportunity for a community to get together and openly offer views on how they wish to see their area developed.

The opportunities for development will include:
Greenfield sites for new building: a private developer or a housing association can seek to buy a piece of land, or develop land they already own.
Redeveloping redundant buildings and sites: a private developer or housing association can convert buildings which are no longer needed (for example, old farm or industrial buildings) to housing; if conversion is too costly or impractical, they could demolish the unwanted buildings and re-use the site.
Refurbishing existing homes: housing associations can buy existing homes to modernise and improve for rent, shared ownership, or (occasionally) for outright sale. This is often referred to as ‘purchase and repair’.
Buying existing homes in good condition: housing associations can also buy homes that need no work for renting straight away. This is called ESP, which stands for existing satisfactory property purchase.

With these opportunities in mind, your group should undertake a systematic survey of the area. It can be helpful to begin by identifying potential sites on a large-scale map, and follow this up with a walkabout. Aim to come up with a long list of possible sites, and find out who owns them. Then make a brief assessment of the points for and against each one. This should include the willingness of the owner to sell for
a fair price!

At this stage, you should invite the other partners (the planning authority, housing strategy officer and preferred developer) to look at the sites with you and help convert the long list into a short list of preferred and possible development opportunities.

Once you have reached an agreement with all the partners, the process can be left to a certain extent in their hands. The developer will progress the planning permission, apply for the necessary grant, and undertake the building work or purchase of existing homes.


Design matters!

Village design statements
Survey responses show that villagers are, rightly, concerned about the design of any new homes provided in their community. They want to make sure that any development blends well with the landscape and local architecture.

Parish councils and community groups can influence the design process by developing a village design statement, and explaining to developers what design standards they, as a community, expect to see. Ideally the design statement should be developed jointly with the local planning authority to ensure that it fits with their local planning guidelines. You’ll find more information about village design statements from the Countryside Agency’s website.

Design standards for housing associations
Housing associations are required by the Housing Corporation to ensure that their homes meet certain agreed standards in terms of space, insulation, access for people with mobility problems, and so on.

Planning gain
New development in the village may be an opportunity to provide new facilities, or tackle existing problems. Better drainage, footpath improvements, extra car parking, and new play areas are just some of the ways in which communities have benefited. It is important to discuss these opportunities with the developer at an early stage.

Planning gain: how communities benefit from housing development
The Lake District village of Coniston is a favourite spot for tourists and day-trippers, and residents had suffered parking problems and traffic congestion for many years. When a housing association developed new homes at Little Moss, it proved possible to include not only parking for residents and their visitors, but extra spaces that relieved pressure on the rest of the village.

At Chapel Stile, Langdale, a new development of housing association homes for rent provided the incentive to introduce a 20 mph speed limit in the village.


How long will development take?
It could take anywhere between two and seven years to complete the new affordable homes (see case-study examples in Part 1). The main factor is the type of development. Small schemes that involve only the purchase of existing properties are usually simpler and quicker to complete, and you might hope to do so in two to three years. Schemes on greenfield sites, and those that entail conversion of redundant buildings, or demolition and re-use of an existing site, can take longer.

You will need to allow for:

  • Greenfield sites/redundant buildings and sites
  • agreeing the site, property numbers and sizes;
  • obtaining any necessary grant funding;
  • obtaining planning approval;
  • construction or conversion of properties.

Purchase of existing properties

  • obtaining grant funding;
  • identifying suitable properties;
  • completing the purchase and undertaking any necessary improvement work.


Dealing with the opposition
Inevitably, some people will oppose your efforts to provide new affordable housing. They are likely to be only a small minority, but they can be vociferous. They can make you feel that the community is bitterly divided over the issue. Each parish council and community group will deal with such opposition in its own way, but the following advice may be helpful:

  • Concentrate on providing facts and objective information. Opposition is often based on misunderstanding and misinformation – and together, these are the breeding grounds for prejudice. So:
    • don’t hesitate to share the evidence of housing need from the survey;
    • explain how section 106 agreements work to ensure that affordable housing remains affordable, and that people with a local connection have priority;
    • provide doubters with examples of other successful rural schemes (there are lots!); let them see that they have been well-received, and have housed the people for whom they were intended;
    • ask your RHE or developer to give you photos of rural developments that use local materials and successfully copy traditional building styles.
  • Keep the dialogue going. There is an old saying that the people you should spend most time talking to are the people who most disagree with you. Certainly, it is worth going to some trouble to make sure that everyone knows what is happening, and what stage the scheme is at. Invite people to comment; make sure important meetings are public meetings; don’t give people a chance to say that decisions are being made behind their back.
  • Remember that some people will never be convinced, and you can never please everyone, all of the time!

A final word …

Seeing a development of affordable housing through to its successful conclusion is a real achievement. Whatever the difficulties along the way, you’ll have provided something of lasting benefit, which many will remember and thank you for.

Part 1. Effects of affordable Housing 2003

Housing: An Effective Way to Sustain our Rural Communities Part I: The Effects of Affordable Housing on Rural Communities This project has been supported by the Housing Corporation through its innovation and good practice grant programme. The contents of the report do not necessarily reflect the views of the Housing Corporation.   © Joint copyright remains with the Housing Corporation, Cumbria Rural Housing Trust and Jacqueline Blenkinship.

Plain Language Commission accreditation number: 6088



Contents Page



Chapter 1: Introduction and background to the research

Aim of the research
Introduction and background

Part I: The effects of affordable housing on rural communities
Part II: Planning to deliver fundamental change in rural Cumbria
Part III: Rural housing needs toolkit


Table – Breakdown of parameters used to select settlements for research
Table – Development details

Chapter 2: The effects of affordable housing on rural communities

Planning policy
Village reports

 Castle Carrock
 Chapel Stile

Key findings – Sustainability of the community
The effects of affordable housing on rural communities
Housing needs evidence base for development of the schemes
The developments
The communities
Police and fire
The cost of a bag of shopping

Chapter 3: Sustainability of housing stock
Table – Sustainability of housing stock
Analysis of the sustainability of housing stock in each village
Conclusions and recommendations for action