Country focus

Tackling the housing crisis is the principle domestic policy challenge of this generation - but the shortage of affordable homes is not just a problem in towns and cities, there’s a critical shortage of housing in our rural areas too.

High house prices in rural areas have a significant impact on the broader rural economy. The lack of affordable homes in our rural communities means that too few young people and young families can afford to live and work in the countryside – that, in turn, can mean that job creation is stifled and that low wages become part of this unbreakable circle.

So news that Hampshire MP Kit Malthouse has been appointed as housing minister has been welcomed by the CLA and hopes are high that, as a rural MP, he will have a firm grasp of the problem and the resolve to navigate his way through the challenges presented by both the housing and planning systems.

Landowners have traditionally taken a long-term view which springs from strong multi-generational ties to their communities. They are often local employers and they have a natural instinct to sustain their local community for future generations - long-term investment in affordable housing, therefore, is an obvious and excellent way of doing this.

Ensuring the right type of homes are built in the countryside can breathe new life into villages and give these communities the chance to survive the future. However, positive development is too often held back by policies which do little to promote sustainable housing growth across rural areas.

Let us hope that Mr. Malthouse appreciates that landowners can be part of the solution and can genuinely help solve the rural housing crisis – always provided that the minister and the local planning authorities are prepared to work with them.

Paul Millard, CLA