People living and working in the countryside are being pushed out, as house prices in rural areas soar, second homes lie empty and populations become older and more vulnerable, according to new figures.
Figures released by the National Housing Federation to mark Rural Housing Week show rural areas have become some of the least affordable places to live in the country. On average house prices in rural areas are 11 times the average salary, meaning potential homebuyers working in these areas would need to see wages rise by a staggering 150% to afford a home.
Around half (44%) of the 50 most unaffordable places to live in England outside of London are in rural areas. House prices in these areas are between 13 and 20 times the average salary.
Dubbed as POREs (Priced out of Rural England), workers in rural areas have actually seen wages rise at a slower rate than the rest of England in the last decade, by 21% compared to 24% in the rest of the country.
Adding to housing woes in rural locations, a shortage of the right kind of properties is pushing up prices. Increasingly, families are feeling forced out of their local areas as more buyers seek second homes in desirable countryside areas which are often left empty outside the tourist season putting pressure on local economies. In some areas like South Hams in Devon, as many as one in ten properties is a second home. Of the 25 local authorities with the highest proportion of second homes, nearly two thirds are rural.
Whilst the unaffordability crisis in rural areas is forcing young workers and families out, the number of over 65s has risen 2.5 times faster (by 20%4) than in towns and cities. Recent figures project that by 2020 around 65% of over 65s (an increase of 24%) in many rural areas will need help with simple domestic tasks5 like shopping, washing dishes and opening screw tops. The National Housing Federation is warning that rural areas will struggle to support the aging population boom unless more affordable homes are built ensuring families and working people can keep communities alive.
David Orr, National Housing Federation chief executive, said: “The traditional picture of the English countryside is fast becoming extinct. We know how difficult many under 40s are finding it to afford a home in towns and cities, but it’s becoming impossible for people to put down roots in our villages and market towns.
“The unaffordability crisis in rural areas is putting local shops pubs and schools at risk of closure and ageing populations are putting pressure on communities.
“These worsening problems would be solved if more affordable homes were built. We are not talking about concreting over the countryside. It’s not ruining the countryside to build 10 high quality, affordable new homes in our villages and 50 in market towns. That’s all it would take across the land to end the rural housing crisis and help to solve the country’s housing crisis within a generation.”