Affordable housing is essentially homes that can be rented or part-bought from a Housing Association. The Homes and Communities Agency, a government body, part funds the development of the properties and sets guidelines for affordable rents.
Special rules apply for Affordable Rural Housing which means that the properties are for people with a strong local connection i.e. they currently live in the village, they have a direct family connection there, they work in the village or have previously lived there. In addition, the houses will remain in perpetuity for the use of the parishioners in affordable housing need.
If the Parish or District Council considers that there may be an unmet or hidden need for affordable housing, then a Housing Needs Survey is conducted. The survey is individually tailored for each parish and hand delivered to every household. The results of the survey are analysed and will offer a good indication of need.
This does depend on the need established but exception schemes are generally small, in the region of six to ten properties.
All schemes differ and this does depend on many factors. Schemes could take from 18 months to 5 years but typically from conception to completion the average development takes approximately three years.
Affordable doesn't have to mean a compromise on design. Planning policies dictate that the development should respect the character of the settlement and be in scale with it. The development must be integrated with the existing pattern of development and land uses. Input from the Parish Council on design issues is encouraged and taken into account where possible.
It is expected that the Parish Council, acting as the voice of their community, will work with the Rural Housing Enabler. The Parish Council will be consulted on every aspect of the scheme from the beginning and regular Parish Council meetings will allow residents to keep up to date and to contribute.
On rural exception schemes, government policy dictates that tenants' right to acquire the rented units is not applicable. A property sold as a shared ownership dwelling is also covered by legal covenants. This means that the property can never be sold outright and must always be sold to purchasers that meet the local connection criteria. To ensure that this happens, the Housing Association will always maintain a stake in the property.