The shortage of affordable housing in rural areas is hurting communities and the economy

Kate Henderson, 04 July 2023

Rural locations in Britain have seen a huge tourism boost in recent years. Restrictions to international travel resulting from the pandemic led people to look closer to home for desirable holiday destinations. This trend seems set to continue due to a mixture of environmental and affordability concerns. 

While changing demand provides a welcome boost to the local economies of rural locations during holiday periods, it also presents significant challenges to those communities.

New NHF analysis released this week identified that in England between 2019 and 2022 social housing waiting lists in rural areas grew by 31%, compared with a 3% increase in urban areas. This means 46,318 more households in our countryside waiting for social housing in 2022 compared with 2019.

Private rents have increased (while there are fewer properties available for private rent), and the last census found that house prices in some rural and coastal areas have risen at three times the national rate.

Only 5,953 new homes for social rent were completed across England’s rural communities over the same period (2019 and 2022), meaning local people are running out of housing options. The tourist industry needs workers who are able to live affordably in the local area.

This shortage of affordable housing is impacting people from all walks of life. Key workers such as teachers, carers and agricultural workers – people who are essential for rural communities to thrive – are also being priced out of rural areas.

With an election on the horizon, the NHF is calling for all parties to commit to a long-term plan to meet housing need. The experience of so many rural communities is a stark example of what happens when the housing market doesn’t meet local needs. For this reason, we need secure, sustained investment in delivering a steady supply of social housing. Building the homes people need – where they need them – will both contribute to both the vitality of rural communities and boost the economy at this critical time.