Hastoe responds to Housing White Paper consultation

Hastoe Group has submitted a response to the Housing White Paper – the consultation for which closed on Tuesday 2 May.

Around 20% of England’s population lives in rural communities and we strongly feel that these communities need rural-specific housing solutions if they are to thrive and be places where people can afford to live. So, as one of England’s leading rural housing associations and committed to building affordable and energy-efficient homes in rural areas, we have responded to the Housing White Paper.

What follows is a summary of some of our comments, concerns and recommendations. To read our full submission (with the consultation questions that we responded to), download the pdf in the 'related files' to the right of this page.

Hastoe specialises in delivering homes in partnership with communities on Rural Exception Sites, so we were pleased to see this vital source of new affordable rural homes get the recognition it deserves. However, we are concerned that the voluntary Right to Buy could make some landowners unwilling to offer land under the Rural Exception Site policy (because the homes built could then be sold and would no longer be affordable). So, to encourage more sites to be brought forward for development, we urged a complete exemption from the voluntary Right to Buy for homes on Rural Exception Sites. We also recommended that landowners and local authorities are provided with guidance on the Rural Exception Site policy and its uses, and how they can help bring more of these sites forward for affordable homes.

Many rural jobs are low paid and seasonal – meaning that people need to live near to their places of work – so we would welcome a holistic approach to looking at the ‘sustainability’ of villages. Many villages suffer from deficiencies in key infrastructure, such as poor broadband and infrequent or expensive transport links. We argue that without action to address these deficiencies, younger people will continue to leave rural areas, even if housing supply improves.

Most rural sites are small in size and the White Paper included proposals to encourage smaller, local builders (who are far more likely to build on small rural sites). However, developers currently do not have to build any affordable homes on sites of fewer than 10 homes. We have recommended that national planning policy is amended so that and all sites of less than 10 homes in rural areas must include some affordable housing.

The consultation also asked what might help local planning authorities increase housing delivery in their areas. Many new developments are the result of an adversarial process which pits developers against local communities, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Hastoe feels that if local planning authorities insisted on genuine community-led development, this would mean that those communities are far more likely to agree to new homes built in their areas. Many rural communities do this already – they identify their own housing need and decide how the homes are to be delivered and where, often by partnering with a housing association or, perhaps by setting up a Community Land Trust (which may work independently or with a housing association). This model has been very successful in rural communities and has been championed by Hastoe for many years. Some villages are now working on their fourth housing project with us – another indication of their positive experience.