Urgent action is being called for as people on middle incomes are forced to pay more than a third of their wages on rent.

People on middle incomes, such as teachers and nurses, are being squeezed out of renting in rural towns and villages in Dorset, a new report says.

This is according to analysis from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), the countryside charity.

The report says that due to record high rents and house prices, stagnating wages, huge waiting lists for social housing and a proliferation of second homes and short-term lets, skills, economic activity and vital public services are being drained from the countryside.

Analysis shows that someone in Dorset earning the local median income, which was 32k in 2023, would currently see 39 per cent of their take home pay go on rent for an average two-bedroom property.

This is higher than the widely accepted affordability threshold of 30 per cent, making it very difficult for these households to maintain a decent standard of living. 

A Health care worker at Dorset County Hospital, who wished to remain anonymous has said that nurses have to work overtime just earn that much and that working full time on just 24k is hard enough. 

She said: “I private rent as I would not be considered for a council house and wouldn’t want to wait years for a warden controlled rabbit hutch - I’m 64 now and still working full time.

"I rent from the Lodge of Oddfellows, which I hope is a little more secure than private rentals, which in the present economic climate are very likely to be sold by the owners.

"The rents for a property of the size I that I require are up to £1,400 which is almost my whole wage, so even if I can get a long-term tenancy guaranteed in the private sector, it’s not financially feasible.

“Overseas nurses brought over to boost our workforce are finding it very difficult to find accommodation once their initial accommodation provided by the hospital comes to an end.

“The shortage of rented accommodation is allowing greedy landlords to increase the rents as people have no choice but to pay it."

There is an extreme disparity between rural rents, which are higher than those in other parts of the country, and rural wages, which are much lower.  

Last year, rents in rural England increased by 27 per cent, compared to the national average of 17 per cent. In the five years to 2022, house prices in the countryside increased at close to twice the rate of those in urban areas.  

CPRE housing campaigner, Brad Taylor, said: “It’s alarming that people on middle incomes – teachers, nurses and emergency services workers – can no longer afford to live in many parts of rural England.

“What will people in these communities do without the essential workers they rely on every day? The government has got to get a grip on the rural housing affordability crisis and urgently introduce the changes to legislation we know will make a real difference.” 

The CPRE is now calling on the government to fix the rural housing affordability crisis by adopting to following policies: 

  • Redefine the term ‘affordable housing’ in housing and planning policy so that the cost of these homes is directly linked to what people on average local incomes can afford, rather than to market prices. 
  • Increase the minimum amount of genuinely affordable housing required by national planning policy and implement ambitious targets for the construction of social rented homes.  
  • Support local communities to deliver small-scale developments of genuinely affordable housing and make it easier for councils to purchase land at a reasonable price, enabling the construction of social housing and vital infrastructure. 
  • Introduce a register of second homes and short-term lets, with new powers for local authorities to levy additional council tax on second homes.  
  • Extend restrictions on the resale of ‘affordable housing’ to all parishes with fewer than 3,000 inhabitants to ensure properties continue to be used by local workers, not as second homes or holiday lets.