Small-scale affordable housing development makes big difference to rural community

Short film released today shows how the community of Roxwell in Essex worked with partners to build affordable homes for people with a connection to the local area

Abi and her partner Gabriel moved no less than five times in four years before they got lucky and secured an affordable rented property in Glebe Meadow; a small-scale, community-led development championed by Roxwell Parish Council and built by housing association, English Rural.

Having a place to call home, where they enjoy the security of a 25-year tenancy agreement and rent capped at less than 80% of market rates has enabled them to settle in the village where Abi grew up and start a family.

Commenting on their new home, Abi said, “It’s so nice to be back in Roxwell because ultimately, it’s home. And financially, it’s put us in a much more secure position as before we were paying about £500 more on private rent”.

Abi and Gabriel’s story is featured as part of a short film prepared by our national network, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), which is calling for more community-led solutions to the housing crisis in rural areas. Launched as part of Rural Housing Week, the charity hopes the example of what Roxwell has achieved will inspire other rural communities to investigate, plan and build new homes that meet local needs.

ACRE has a network of 38 local charities in every rural county of England, almost all of whom provide independent facilitation for groups wanting to develop affordable housing schemes locally.

Laura Atkinson is a Rural Housing Enabler with the Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE). She played an instrumental role helping Roxwell Parish Council engage residents to identify local needs and brokering relationships with planners and the housing association which went on to develop the scheme at Glebe Meadow.

Speaking on film, Laura said, “It’s vital there are homes that are affordable to everyone in rural areas. Land values and house prices remain incredibly high, especially at the moment, post-Covid. And the gap between rural property prices and local wages continues to widen. Coupled with higher costs of living and rising energy prices, this leaves many unable to remain where they grew up or have support networks. I would really encourage any community looking to assess their affordable housing need to get in touch. We can help.”

According to recent government statistics*, the most affordable homes in rural areas cost 9.6 times earnings compared to 8 times earnings in urban areas, excluding London. In Chelmsford District, of which Roxwell is part, residents can expect to pay nearly 12 times their earnings for the most affordable homes.

Glebe Meadow is regarded as a success story by English Rural who built the new homes which includes five dwellings at affordable rent, plus two discounted market sale properties, all of which are now occupied by people with a connection to the local area.

Alison Thompson, Deputy Development Director at English Rural said: “We are delighted to have completed this much-needed scheme in Essex. Affordable rural developments provide a secure and safe place for local people to live, in the communities they serve and support. The affordable homes at Glebe Meadow will play an important role in safeguarding a vibrant, active, and working village that includes a mixture of age groups and income earners.”

In the past, CCB has run a very successful Rural Affordable Housing project which resulted in excess of 40 housing need surveys being completed and the development of 4 rural exception sites being developed developments, 41 homes have been built specifically to give local people access to affordable homes. Due to funding constraints, we no longer can run this project in the same way but we remain committed to helping rural communities in Berkshire to provide affordable housing that meets a range of local needs. We long to run a well-attended training session on better providing community-led housing options and affordable homes for people living or working in Berkshire. If you are interested in this and would like to provide us with some feedback on training that YOU would find useful we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Tim.Parry@ccberks.org.uk

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