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Share Power: Share Success

affordable housing local needs rural communities Wales rent enabler RHE Cartref Community Housing Cymru CHC Powys

Published in Cartref, Community Housing Cymru Group’s magazine

Public opposition to affordable housing is a bigger barrier than a developer’s financial position or land availability, according to frontline Councillors in England and Wales. 59% Of the Councillors also believe that ’Early involvement of local communities in discussions about the location of developments’ would make rural housing development more acceptable’. *

Ten Rural Housing Enablers (rhes) in Wales have developed a successful bottom up meets top down approach to circumnavigate this barrier, with many rural communities now supporting small affordable housing schemes for local need. They believe that this approach can be extended to other fields.

The rhes in Wales have established themselves as champions of rural housing. As independent brokers, they work with communities in rural areas to find solutions to meet local housing need. A lot of work undertaken is dispelling myths and explaining what affordable housing can mean for a rural community. Enablers are often crucial in starting a dialogue between local people, the local authority and an affordable homes developer. There is often poor understanding of each other’s honest intentions to improve a community, and the rhe approach enables these groups of people to develop one vision for their community with affordable housing at the core.

Efforts so far by the network of Welsh rhes have resulted in the addition of 210 affordable homes, with another 50 currently being built and another 200 in the pipeline. The independent position makes the Enablers unique, creating space to operate between stakeholders and bring them together. This is recognised by funding partners –Welsh Government, local authorities and housing associations.

Delivering new affordable housing is just one element of the much broader fabric of what makes each rural community unique. Shouldn’t these communities be developing a long term vision to meet their own specific needs? Aren’t the people living and working in an area the experts to define what makes their community tick? Supporting the rural economy and provision of affordable housing will almost certainly be high on the list, but the rhes have grown to expect different topics in different places.

Yes, it might mean more flexible and localised development plans, a less compartmentalised approach and more joined up thinking between authority and the people living and working in an area. Is it time to introduce the bottom up meets top down rhe approach on a wider scale? If you share power, you can share success too.

* New Housing Development Survey 2012; June 2012; Local Government Association.