Demand for rural housing pushes housing company to the limit

A not-for-profit company working to encourage the building of affordable rural housing is struggling to cope with the huge demand for its services.

Land for People was set up to help communities in Powys and the Welsh Marches provide homes for local people, including active and retired farmworkers.

The houses are rented or sold to people who have lived in the community for three years, and whose incomes are low enough to qualify them for support.

LFP’s role is to liaise with communities hoping to develop homes for local people and to help bring together interested parties.

“We undertake surveys of housing needs, register community land trusts and involve local people in house design and allocation,” said LFP director Jonathan Brown.

Houses are allocated by a panel on a part-equity basis or for rent, with the freehold of the land held in perpetuity by the community.

Acute shortage

But there is an acute shortage of affordable housing, as well as the social accommodation provided by housing associations.

And, as more is built, demand for LFP’s services has risen to the point where the company does not have the manpower or money to respond to growing interest from all over Wales.

“We are fully stretched working on the delivery of three community-led affordable housing schemes in Wales and one in Shropshire. In addition, we are providing support, advice and information to seven other projects.

“Pressure on us will increase as more planners insist that developments include some affordable housing. Eventually we hope to be self-financing by charging a fee on completed projects, but for now we have to depend on grant aid.”

It has received grant aid from DEFRA, the Welsh Assembly, the Carnegie UK Trust, Powys County Council.

Work on the first Land for People collaboration will begin shortly at Castle Caereinion in north Powys, when 10 energy-efficient units will be constructed.

“We had to go back to the drawing board when the local community rejected the original design of units to be built on community land trust owned land bought from the developer for £135,000.

“But that is exactly the sort of community involvement we are trying to foster,” Mr Brown added.

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