Rural Housing WeekTwo Castles Housing Association is working to make living in rural areas more affordable after new figures highlighted the rising costs of the average home.

The figures, released by the National Housing Federation (NHF) for Rural Housing Week, show that that even the average ‘affordable’ property in parts of the North East would cost more than five times the salary of local residents. By comparison, a UK homebuyer earning the average salary for in 1995 would have had to spend between 3.2 times and 4.4 times their salary on a house, depending on where they lived.

In rural Northumberland, for example, the average affordable home costs £98,000 – that’s 5.2 times the £18,216 average full-time income of residents. And in County Durham, the average affordable home costs £67,000 – that’s 3.6 times the £18,663 average full-time income of residents.*

Rural Housing Week (11-17 July) aims to shine a spotlight on rural housing issues and demonstrate how housing associations are helping to maintain a living, working countryside.

More than one in five of England’s population live in rural areas but in some of these places only a fifth of the homes we need have been built over the last five years.

With house prices rising at a faster rate than most salaries and people continuing to struggle to get onto the property ladder, Two Castles Housing Association has built 61 homes this year across the North East in areas where demand is at its highest.

All of these homes have been let at affordable rents, providing a vital supply of affordable housing to people otherwise priced out of the market.

Recent developments include 27 new homes in Warkworth, Northumberland; 26 affordable homes in Hexham, Northumberland; and eight homes in Shotley Bridge, County Durham.  Work is also now underway on 16 new affordable homes in Stocksfield, Northumberland.

Rob Brittain, property services director at Two Castles Housing Association, said: “The NHF figures highlight just how much the rising costs of homes could threaten our rural communities, as local families increasingly find themselves priced out of the market. It’s vital that we do all we can to address the issue, by providing essential affordable housing.

“Through our shared ownership schemes we are helping to make the housing ladder more accessible for hardworking, local people in the hardest hit rural areas such as Northumberland and County Durham. These are people for whom home ownership might otherwise simply not be an option.

“Our new homes continue to be over-subscribed by families who are struggling to stay in the communities they call home. With this in mind we will continue to work hard with partners to continue to address the shortfall in housing throughout 2016.”

According to Northumberland County Council’s Housing Strategy 2013-2018 report there are almost 9,000 people on the Northumberland housing allocations register, with around 4,200 assessed to be in housing need.

In addition to the homes in the North East, Two Castles worked with partners to develop 104 homes in the North West and Cumbria during 2015, with another 52 planned in the region by the end of this year.

Housing associations up and down the country are using Rural Housing Week as an opportunity to highlight the crucial role affordable housing plays in helping to maintain small rural communities and highlight their innovative solutions to rural housing problems.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said:  “We have a huge opportunity to safeguard the future of our countryside to ensure our villages and market towns are living, breathing, dynamic economies with great jobs, great broadband and great places to live with new homes.

“Housing associations like Two Castles provide a place to live for local people who would otherwise be completely priced out, enabling them to live in the same place as their friends and family. I’ve been to many new developments in villages which have enhanced the aesthetics of the village – but even more importantly have enhanced the economic potential, the ability of young people to live where they grew up and raise families of their own.

“I’m delighted that this year’s Rural Housing Week is shining a spotlight on the innovation of housing associations and their creative responses to tackling the housing crisis in our rural areas.”

Rural Housing Highlights

Hexham, Northumberland: A pioneering £3.4 million development, which has seen the completion of UK’s first ever housing association homes to use smart technology to improve energy efficiency.  The 26 new affordable homes, situated at Anick View on Corbridge Road, on the eastern side of Hexham, comprise seven two-bedroom houses, six two-bedroom bungalows, nine three-bedroom houses and four one-bedroom flats, all of which have been let to local people with an existing connection to the town and its surrounding area.

Young couple Joshua and Rachael were delighted to get the keys to their first home – a brand new, two-bedroomed, smart home at the scheme.

Rachael said: “We saw these homes being built and both said how lovely it would be to have one. We were living with Joshua’s mum at the time and, as well as having a 30 minute journey to work, it was difficult for Joshua’s daughter to come and stay over.

“We feel really grateful to be here and part of such an important project. Because it’s our first home together we weren’t sure how much the energy costs would be but we’ve been truly surprised at how cheap the house is to run.

“Moving here has made a huge difference to our lives.”

Shotley Bridge, County Durham: A scheme of six two bedroom and two four bedroom homes for affordable rent.  These homes are part of a larger development and were purchased from the developer under a Section 106 planning agreement.  The homes meet Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3.

Warkworth, Northumberland: A scheme of 27 new homes in the St Oswald’s Close development in Warkworth. The development is within walking distance of Warkworth Church of England First School. It includes nine two-bedroom and six three-bedroom properties, along with eight two-bedroom bungalows and four one-bedroom flats. Two Castles worked closely with partners to ensure the design of the new homes was in keeping with the village. The homes themselves reflect existing property designs and are set at an angle from the road to allow for triangular shaped front gardens, a distinctive feature common in the village.

Stocksfield, Northumberland: Work is underway on 16 affordable homes, built by Esh Property Services working alongside Two Castles. Once complete, all of these homes will be sold or let to local people with established connections to the village. To continue to address the shortfall, Two Castles has plans for additional affordable homes in the region in 2016.