Britain’s countryside is becoming ever more socially exclusive as spiralling house prices turn once-normal villages into rich ghettos.
Contrary to the popular imagination, few of the cast of The Archers
could now afford to live in Ambridge, or anywhere else in rural Britain
for that matter. It’s getting ever harder for people on medium and
lower incomes to buy a first home, and there is very little so-called
“affordable housing”. The proposed extension of the Right to Buy to tenants of housing associations will only make matters much worse.
As the internet explodes with articles focused on London, it’s is an ideal moment to take stock of the situation and ensure people in the countryside don’t get drowned out.
The UK is unique in having higher house prices in its rural areas than in its towns and cities. Rural homes now cost 26% more on average than those in urban England (London aside), and work out to around 11 times the average local salary.
These prices are well beyond the means of most families living and
working in the countryside, who are outbid by wealthy commuters,
retirees and second home owners who earn their living elsewhere.
For people unable to afford to buy a home, renting should be viable
alternative, but this is also a problem. Private rents are just as high
as in urban areas, despite lower earnings in rural communities (local
earnings in rural England average £19,700 compared to £26,900 in major urban areas).
Rented social housing provided by housing associations and councils could help out, but again rural areas are lacking: 12% of rural housing is social
compared to 19% in urban areas. Even this small stock of social housing
has been further depleted under the Right to Buy scheme, and in some
areas affordable housing has all but disappeared.
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