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Local authorities are continuing to ignore ways to deliver much needed affordable homes for local people across the countryside, according to a rural organisation.

New government data shows that despite a 9% increase in affordable homes built in small rural communities across England, only 51 more than the previous year were built on rural exception sites, farmland not usually granted planning permission but used for affordable housing developments.

The CLA, which represents landowners and farmers, welcomed the overall increase but said local councils across England could use these sites more effectively to help solve the rural housing crisis.

CLA Housing Adviser Matthew O’Connell said housing need is “widespread” throughout rural England.

“The increase in the total number of affordable homes being built is encouraging, however, large discrepancies between local authorities mean that certain councils are doing more than others,” he explained.

‘Missing a trick’

According to the data, Cornwall Council leads the way in number of homes built, whilst other councils lag behind.

Mr O’Connell believes local authorities are “missing a trick” by not using rural exception sites to their full potential.

“Rural exception sites are a key means of providing affordable homes in rural areas where a landowner provides land at below market value to build affordable homes for local people.

“We know that 27% of CLA members want to build affordable housing and many are keen to manage their own affordable properties. To harness this ambition, local councils and housing associations must engage with rural landowners to help bring more sites forward increasing the range of housing options for people in rural areas.

‘Hold the key’

Mr O’Connell added that rural landowners “hold the key” to easing the shortage of rural housing.

“Without challenging a few orthodoxies we are not going to solve the rural housing crisis. New build rented housing, affordable home ownership and affordable rented homes are all crucial to maintaining a living, working countryside,” he said.

To help increase the supply of affordable homes across the countryside the CLA is calling on the Government to formalise the process for landowners to manage affordable homes and implement the Housing White Paper proposals on rural exception sites.

The Housing White Paper proposed to give stronger support for rural exception sites and the role they can play in providing affordable housing for the community, even if this relies on an element of general market housing.

The CLA is also urging the government to exempt properties provided as affordable homes from liability for Inheritance Tax, and exempt the value of land sold for affordable homes from Capital Gains Tax.

Source: Farming UK

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