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Rural homelessness in England seen doubling as locals priced out

by Sophie Davies | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 28 October 2020 14:52 GMT

A homeless man holds up a sign outside Westminster underground station as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in London, Britain, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

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Rising cost of housing has priced local people out, say charities behind a new study

By Sophie Davies

Oct 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Homelessness in rural areas of England has more than doubled in the past two years as the rising cost of housing has priced out local people, researchers said on Wednesday.

Nearly 20,000 households were categorised as homeless by local governments in 2019/20, up 115% from 2017/18 figures, according to a study carried out jointly by three countryside charities.

They urged the government to build more affordable rural housing, saying the coronavirus pandemic had shown the importance of communities where essential workers both live and work.

"Genuinely affordable, well designed homes connected to low carbon public transport and good local services are the very foundations of thriving rural communities," said Crispin Truman, chief executive of the one of the charities, CPRE.

"But today's analysis shows that we are a long way off delivering more of this and tragically, rural homelessness continues to soar," he said in a statement.

Nine out of 10 key workers are being priced out of the rural communities they serve by private rents, he added.

Britain's housing ministry said the year-on-year comparison was "misleading" as a change in the law in 2018 had made more people eligible for government support.

"Our new £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme – the biggest investment in a decade – will deliver up to 180,000 new affordable homes across the country, including in rural areas," it added in a statement emailed to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Britain has for decades failed to build enough housing to keep up with rising demand, driving house prices sharply higher.

In August, the government set out proposals to speed up homebuilding by cutting red tape and opening up the sector to smaller firms, in a bid to address a long-term housing shortage.

But the chief executive of the English Rural Housing Association, another charity involved in the study, said further deregulation would only make the situation worse.

"Instead, investing in rural social housing now would deliver a boost to the economy at a time when this is so desperately needed," said Martin Collett in a statement.

"The evidence is crystal clear that this is the best way to provide affordable homes for rural communities, especially the key workers who communities rely on now, more than ever, while at the same time jump starting the economy."

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(Reporting by Sophie Davies, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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