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Farmers fear being priced out of the countryside

The average house price in rural England has more than doubled over the last decade, and now stands at £256,698. But the average salary in rural areas is just £21,000 – meaning the vast majority of people have virtually no hope of ever being able to afford a home in their local area.

The three organisations warned a lack of affordable housing posed a threat to traditional rural life – as a new poll reveals deep seated concerns within rural communities over house prices, service closures and second homes.

The poll commissioned by the Federation found two thirds of people (65%) living in rural England believe local families and young people are being priced out of villages and market towns by sky high house prices.

The ICM survey also revealed that 63% of rural dwellers thought there was a shortage of affordable homes for local people in their village, with a large majority (70%) saying they would support a small number of affordable homes being built for local people in their area.

Over a third of rural dwellers (37%) said key services like village shops, post offices and pubs have declined over the last five years – fuelling fears that traditional village life is now in terminal decline.

Questioned on the thorny issue of holiday homes, nearly a third (31%) said second home owners had a negative impact on community life – with just 7% saying it made a positive contribution.

One in five (19%) said they had seen the number of second homes in their area increase over the last five years, with just 6% saying it had fallen. 58% said the number had stayed the same.

The Federation, which represents England’s housing associations, said the results of the poll reflected growing fears that many rural communities were now in terminal decline and called on more affordable homes to be built for young people.

Hundreds of pubs and shops are closing every year in rural England, while village schools are closing at a rate of one of month as a result of a declining demand for services in villages where local families – the core customer base – have been priced out of the area by an influx of wealthy commuters and second home owners.

The number of people on waiting lists for an affordable home in rural England – where house prices are £40,000 higher than urban areas – has rocketed to 750,000.

The Federation, which represents England’s housing associations, estimates around 100,000 new affordable homes are required in England alone to meet rural housing need over the next 10 years.

The Federation is calling on local housing authorities to draw up action plans to address the housing needs of their communities, and ensure that local villages are sustainable.

Federation chief executive David Orr said: "Unless we build more affordable homes for the local families who sustain and enrich village life, then we must accept that traditional community life will be wiped out within a generation in many areas.

"The cornerstones of English village life – the shop, the school and the pub – are all closing down in alarming numbers because families and young people are being priced out of the local area.

"Local authorities need to assess just how many affordable homes are needed in each rural ward, and draw up action plans to get those homes delivered, before more small village schools are closed and traditional village life dies on its feet."

NFU rural surveyor, Louise Staples, said: "Keeping young people in rural areas will be essential if we are to maintain a productive and competitive agricultural industry in the UK.

"It is imperative that the next generation is given the opportunity to work on farms and develop their skills as they build their careers in food and farming. Affordable rural housing is a must.

"It is also important there is adequate, affordable housing available for retiring farmers to help succession planning."

Katherine Sealy, NFYFC’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee chair, said: "With average house prices now over £250,000, young people like me can’t afford to live in villages.

"Without young, dynamic and enthusiastic staff and customers, local shops and services will be forced to close and we must not just sit and watch as communities suffer as a result.

"The affordable housing issue has to be addressed to ensure the future sustainability of rural areas and jobs."

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