Azara Blog: There are not enough houses in rural areas

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Date published: 2005/11/27

The BBC says:

Lack of land, "Nimbyism", and planning laws are causing rural social housing shortages and increased homelessness, housing associations are warning.

The National Housing Federation has told the government's Affordable Rural Housing Commission that the situation is now critical.

Rural house prices are rising but there has been a fall in the number of new affordable homes being built.

The federation wants changes to planning to prioritise social housing.

In its submission to the commission, the federation says that from 1999-2003 the proportion of homeless households in rural areas increased by 24%.

In the South West - where housing shortages, second homes and low wages make it the most expensive area after London - the minimum target for new affordable housing per year was missed by over a third.

It says planning processes that can be slow and cumbersome, and "unthinking" opposition from people who take a "not-in-my-back-yard" attitude to developments is exacerbating the problem.

The federation wants a national rural housing strategy to be drawn up, VAT to be reduced to 5% for refurbishment of empty rural houses and for surplus government land to be used for social housing.

It is also recommending that more rural people be given key worker status and for the right to buy social housing to be restricted.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: "The acute shortage of affordable housing is a threat to the prosperity and existence of rural communities and market towns.

"A lack of land, a slow and unresponsive planning system and unthinking Nimby opposition is preventing not-for-profit housing associations from building the new homes needed to keep communities alive."

This is not just a rural problem, it is a UK problem. The main reason is that the ruling elite refuse to allow enough land to be released for housing. The problem is compounded by the fact that big developers have a stranglehold on house building, so you can understand why people start behaving like NIMBYs, because these developers don't put one or two houses here or there, instead they dump dozens or hundreds of homes right in one field. And "key worker" is one of the most obnoxious and divisive phrases introduced by New Labour. What it means is that certain politically correct categories of public sector workers are somehow deemed worthy of housing favours which are denied the rest of the populace. All workers should be able to afford a decent house but nobody should be given special favours, especially if the criterion is just that they happen to work for the government. In Cambridge, for example, school teachers are deemed more worthy than university staff, although teachers earn just as much (if not more) than your average university employee. And needless to say, the only reason the city of Cambridge exists at all is because of the university, so if you want to be divisive then you could easily argue that university employees should be the ones getting special favours in Cambridge, not school teachers.

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