HOUSING associations building just a few affordable homes for young families in rural areas could halt the cycle of decline in England’s towns and villages, a new report said yesterday.
Young families and working-age people are often driven to cities due to a lack of affordable housing in the countryside, the research found.
Last year, the cheapest homes in rural areas were 8.3 times the income of typical first-time buyers, which is much higher than in urban areas.
Fifty-two rural schools have shut down over the last five years because of a population decline, the research shows.
Eighty-one post offices have shut since 2011 and rural pubs have also been closing at a rate of more than seven a week, with 1,365 having shut down between March 2013 and December 2016.
Almost half of households in rural areas will have an average age of 65 or over by 2039, the report predicts.
The research was carried out by the Rural Life Monitor, part of the National Housing Federation, the trade body that represents independent non-profit housing associations.
Its report says that the intervention of housing associations in some rural areas has helped keep pubs, schools and post offices open.
In Northumberland, on tidal Holy Island (Lindisfarne) the sole primary school was able to remain open after just four affordable family homes were built.
In Dorset, the development of six affordable rented homes kept the post office open in the small village of Toller Pocorum.
Federation chief executive David Orr said: “Housing associations are proving that just a handful of high-quality and affordable new homes can transform rural communities and ensure that our villages and market towns can thrive for generations to come.”
The Rural Life Monitor estimates that 40,000 new homes are needed each year to keep up with demand.