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Affordable housing in rural areas boosted by launch of new scheme

Affordable housing will be unlocked backed by a new package of government funding.

The £2.5m package will support a network of independent advisors who will work with communities to develop affordable housing schemes.

The advisors will help identify suitable development opportunities in communities, and support site owners and community representatives to navigate the planning system and create developments in rural areas that meet the needs of local people.

The scheme, which is being delivered in conjunction with Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), will help boost the supply of new, affordable homes across England.

The first payments have been awarded to local partners in Cambridgeshire and Northumberland, with other projects set to be announced across England next year.

Rural Affairs Minister Lord Benyon said: “All too often people are unable to live near to the village where they work or were brought up. We are making it a priority that rural communities have access to the housing they need.    

“Our support for rural housing advisors will help develop small scale affordable housing schemes that fit in with the local area. Together with our policies to improve transport, connectivity and access to public services, this is another demonstration of our commitment to unleash opportunity in rural areas.”  

Richard Quallington, ACRE’s Executive Director, said: “We’re thrilled to be delivering this programme for Defra. Many people in rural communities understand there’s a need for much more affordable housing but they are often opposed to unfettered commercial developments that neither fit in with the area, nor create homes that go to those who genuinely need it.   

“The decision by the government to back Rural Housing Enablers is hugely positive news as it will mean many more communities across England can access independent support and advice to help them appraise the need for affordable homes locally, navigate complicated planning rules and work with more socially minded developers to bring forward suitable schemes.”  

The expansion of the Rural Housing Enablers scheme was first announced by Defra in the ‘Unleashing Rural Opportunity’ document earlier this summer, which sets out plans to unlock growth and potential in rural areas.

Other government measures supporting the provision of rural homes for local people include the Rural Exception Sites policy, which facilitates the development of small affordable housing sites in rural areas, and the Affordable Homes Programme, which aims to create high-quality homes and thriving places across England.

This new funding is part of a number of measures being implemented by the government to strengthen rural communities and invigorate the rural economy, including Project Gigabit, which aims to bring better internet access to rural areas, and Future of Transport Rural Strategy to tackle isolation and increase access to jobs in rural and remote areas.

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