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Suffolk: Waiting lists for affordable homes in rural areas are ‘soaring’ according to report

13:32 20 September 2012

GREATER efforts need to be made to tackle the “soaring” waiting lists for affordable homes in rural areas, it was claimed last night.

The comments come following a survey by the National Housing Federation (NHF) that shows a rise in people waiting for social housing.

According to the figures Suffolk Coastal witnessed a 53% increase last year - from 1,057 in 2010 to 1,613 in 2011, the largest in the east of England. In Forest Heath there was an increase of 34% from 1,001 to 1,346 and in Mid Suffolk the rise was 13%, from 1,641 to 1,855.

The survey - released in the run up to Rural Housing Week - has led to fears that some families are being priced out of the countryside

Paul Kingston, director of housing and care services at Orwell Housing, which is responsible for some of the housing association properties in Suffolk, said the situation was exacerbated by second home owners, the Right to Buy and the decrease in government subsidies available to build new homes. “Orwell is doing its best to build as many homes as it can but this still falls a long way short of what is needed,” he said.

Wil Gibson, chief executive of rural charity Suffolk Acre, said although they had just completed 300 homes under their Rural Housing Enabler Scheme this was just a “drop in the ocean.” He said they continued to urge communities to complete a housing survey - developing small schemes that would meet local need. In turn he said this would have the added benefit of boosting the economy and helping local building firms, who could cope with smaller projects.

Emma King, executive director of Flagship Housing, said they had committed to a new build programme of 200 homes this year across East Anglia. “The current economic climate and recently announced changes to planning regulations mean that we, and other housing associations, face huge challenges,” she added.

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal District Council said although the percentage increase was high, the total waiting list remained relatively low. “We are committed to supporting rural communities and we run programmes which go some way towards meeting local need,” he added.

Claire Astbury, East of England lead manager at the NHF, said the sharp increase in waiting lists was a “stark warning”. “We want councillors, MPs and local people to see the true value of a thriving countryside, and the benefits that sympathetic and sustainable rural development can bring,” she said.

The research from the National Housing Federation shows that nationally, social housing waiting lists rose 8% in rural areas in 2011, three times faster than in urban areas.

The rise - from 45,531 households to 49,165 - is a significant jump from previous years. In 2010, rural waiting lists rose just 0.8%, while in 2009 they dropped by 2.5%.

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