Posted on 28th February 2014

Four-Square Behind a Rural Housing Agenda


Neil Stevenson, Partner at Latimer Hink SolcitorsWhatever your take on the idea of building on more swathes of our green and pleasant land, there is one irrefutable truth. Namely, that there is a chronic shortage of housing across large parts of the country, with rural areas in particular struggling to meet demand. A new report from the the Country Land and Business Association(CLA) called Tackling the Housing Crisis in England outlines measures on what needs to be done to address the estimated shortfall in housing supply of some 230,000 homes a year.


Sensible recommendations include encouraging private landowners to build affordable homes by broadening the type of provider accepted by local councils, recognising that landowners can pool their resources to speed up the creation of garden cities and using welfare reform as a means of extending the range of housing. One thing that is palpably clear is that something needs to be done to address the dire shortage of housing, particularly at the lower, more affordable, end of the spectrum.


Broadening housing availability will bring more first-time buyers into the mix which will encourage those who have grown up in the area to stay put once they decide to settle down. Without a viable and broad supply of housing, we will sadly be in the position where young people will choose to move away from the countryside and services will wither. The countryside should not just be a pretty place to visit, but should be a place to work and do business.

At the other end of the age-scale, there is a lack, according to the CLA, of retirement homes. Older people are now more likely than ever to hold on to farm holdings as they lack viable alternatives that will allow them to stay in the local area should they wish to do so. This tenancy log-jam, where parents are not passing on property soon enough, is now a sad fact that is threatening the very future of farming. It is important that alternative accommodation is in place to get the market moving again and to provide a more fluid succession.

In addition, the CLA calls for changes to taxation law so that incentives are provided for landlords who let homes at below-market rents, and to encourage landlords to build new rented accommodation. The CLA also suggests that VAT should not be levied on self-build units or on non-domestic buildings that are converted into new homes.

A new requirement is also being sought by the CLA that would oblige local planning authorities to provide up-to-date and fully justified evidence for not allocating housing development land in certain designated areas.

The CLAs vision reflects one that everyone who lives and does business in the rural economy should aspire to. Whether one dubs it a business and housing agenda for the countryside or simply sensible measures to kick-start the rural economy, proposals such as these should be placed firmly on the governmental agenda.


Please note: This article is intended as guidance only and does not constitute advice, financial or otherwise. No responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by Latimer Hinks. In addition, no responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by the firm.


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