Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Association of Rural Communities (Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority area) (HPB 32)

Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16

Introduction: The Association of Rural Communities is very concerned that the proposal to extend the Right to Buy Scheme will seriously undermine the sustainability and viability of rural communities such as those in National Parks. It recommends that such areas should be exempted from this extension. This submission has also been made to Rishi Sunak MP.

1 - The Government’s proposal to extend the Right to Buy scheme to Housing Association tenants will be an unmitigated disaster for communities in the National Parks and in deeply rural areas. This is why the Association of Rural Communities supports those calling for a complete exemption from the Right to Buy scheme for rural areas.

2 - The Government’s so-called "historic" agreement with the National Housing Federation can only be seen as a back-door method of circumventing a full debate in Parliament. The losers in all this are our rural communities for having the "discretion not to sell a particular property in ... a very rural area" will not ensure that there will be any houses available at affordable rents in years to come. Just look at how few council houses have been replaced on a "one to one" basis. And the new "one for one" replacement homes can be anywhere in the country.

3 - The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has worked very hard for several years to try and find sites for affordable housing whilst trying to ensure that there would be no negative impact on this beautiful countryside. It has proved to be a very tough task.

4 - If Housing Association rented properties are sold it is almost certain that no further sites will be available because landowners, farmers and parish councils will not be prepared to make land available at low prices. Those who have already released land at a reduced cost did it on the understanding that the properties would be available for rent or shared ownership to locals in perpetuity.

5 - Without such affordable rented accommodation what chance will there be for many local young people and young families to find accommodation near where they have grown up? It will also be more difficult for the elderly to continue living within their own communities including farmers who retire to allow younger members of their family to live in the farmhouses.

6 - There is only one way to protect our rural communities and that is for the Government to make it mandatory under statute that Housing Association properties in such areas are exempted from both the Right to Buy and the Right to Acquire schemes. If this is not done villages in areas like the Yorkshire Dales will become geriatric rest homes for the wealthy - and there will be no-one left to take care of our lovely countryside.

November 2015

Prepared 17th November 2015