Agenda item

Rural Housing Needs


The Assistant Director (Planning) presented the report which updated the Committee on the future rolling programme for Rural Housing Needs Surveys and on the outcome of the Rural Housing Needs Surveys undertaken between 2017 and 2018 for Vigo, Istead Rise, Luddesdown and Shorne. Although affordable housing tended to be the main thrust of the Surveys, the Assistant Director (Planning) drew Members’ attention to the survey findings which indicated a need  housing required for older persons who wanted to downsize but the majority of these needed market housing rather than affordable housing.

The following points were made during discussion on this subject:

·         The Government required local authorities to define the affordable housing need for rural parishes and this, in the case of the Borough, included Istead Rise even though the area was not parished. The Council had been working with the Action with Communities in Rural Kent (ACRK) to identify needs and to develop different types of housing. This was often difficult as housing associations could not afford to pay the market rate for land and therefore affordable housing sites tended to be located in the Green Belt as Rural Exception Sites. Green Belt use was permissible as limited affordable housing for local community needs was not considered to be inappropriate in the Green Belt.

·         The Borough Council undertook a rolling programme of Rural Housing Needs Surveys and it was recognised that the surveys were a snapshot in time and best practice recommended that they have a ‘shelf-life’ of no more than five years, at which point a new survey should be undertaken. The surveys could be undertaken using a shorter timescale but this was not considered to be helpful for the communities involved.

·         A fundamental refresh of the surveys had been undertaken approximately eight years ago at the behest of a Meopham Borough Councillor who was an expert in questionnaire design who assisted the Council on how to avoid designing questions containing unconscious bias.

·         It was noted that undertaking the surveys could cause sensitivities. However rural areas had to be aware that sometimes the housing needs of these areas were neglected to maintain the status quo. Therefore, the communities became older and less diverse.

·         Whilst the Council could buy ex-Council houses of people who wished to downsize using Right to Buy receipts, rural premiums made this difficult to achieve. Another major factor was that people who wanted to downsize also generally wanted to remain in the area.

·         A reservation was expressed as previously affordable housing had not always been made available to local people. The Assistant Director (Planning) explained that she was aware of an anomaly for a property in Higham a number of years ago and this has been caused by a high turnover of staff at the housing association in question resulting in the policy of offering affordable housing to local people not being passed on. This issue has since been addressed. Equally a local connection to a parish did not necessarily mean that the person was currently a resident in that parish.

·         Following a question with regard to the covenant against building in Vigo, the officer confirmed that the covenant was challenging as it was not a material planning consideration. Planning permission could be granted by the Borough Council and the Parish Council could refuse to vary the covenant.

Resolved that:

1.    the future rolling programme be noted for publication on the Council’s website; and

2.    the Rural Housing Needs Surveys for Vigo, Istead Rise, Luddesdown and Shorne be noted for publication on the Council’s website.

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