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HARAH tour applauds villages tackling the rural housing crisis


Figures from the National Housing Federation show that in rural areas, average house prices have doubled in 10 years, up 82% from £126,000 to £229,000. Wages have not kept pace, rising 17% slower in rural areas than in urban areas over the last five years.

Parish councillors from East Hampshire and Winchester Districts were invited to a bus tour of recently completed rural affordable housing developments in Hampshire. Representatives from 10 parishes in Winchester and five parishes in East Hampshire attended the tour which took place on Friday 6 June.

All the schemes have been developed by the Hampshire Alliance for Rural Affordable Housing (HARAH), which provides affordable accommodation specifically for people with a strong local connection in rural villages. The project gives local people, who do not have the financial means for a mortgage or to rent privately in their local area, the opportunity to continue living close to valuable family support networks.

Attendees visited five schemes including a scheme of 10 affordable rented properties in West Meon, Winchester, which has been listed as one of Inside Housing’s Top 50 UK affordable housing developments. The group also visited a site in the South Downs National Park that recently received planning permission for eight affordable rented homes for local people.

Councillors took a keen and enquiring interest in the issues around rural affordable housing. Of particular interest were design, local connection and ways to minimise impact on the landscape. Parish councillors were pleased to see the bespoke approach to design and how each development is unique to its context. The tour helped raise awareness of affordable housing issues locally and gave councillors the opportunity to ask detailed questions about how a scheme might work in their area.

People’s immediate perception is that affordable housing will look like the traditional council housing, ie tower blocks, maisonettes. The tour helped squash ill-conceived perceptions about what ‘affordable housing’ is. Councillors could see that the HARAH properties are good quality and have been built on a small scale to fit into the area. The councillors were looking at real life examples, different products, styles and approaches.

Action Hampshire’s Rural Housing Enablers are part of HARAH, and played a key role in organising the tour; you can find out more about their work on Action Hampshire’s website. If you are interested in finding out more about HARAH, please visit the HARAH website.

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