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Rural housing

Rural areas are some of the least affordable places to live in the country. In 2008, the Government’s  Living Working Countryside Matthew Taylor review of the rural economy and affordable housing found that while people working in rural areas tend to earn significantly less than those working in urban areas, rural homes are more expensive than urban homes. The popularity of rural areas and migration from urban areas add to the pressures on rural housing affordability.

Living Working Countryside sets out a vision for “flourishing, vibrant communities that will be genuinely sustainable”. The HCA shares this vision and we are working with our partners to develop programmes that will secure the future of our villages and market towns. We are also investing in rural areas through our Affordable Homes Programme of investment to address problems of housing affordability and community decline.

Our overall aim is to increase the country’s capacity to deliver affordable rural housing and to release surplus public sector land for the creation of affordable rural homes.

Other ways we are actively engaged in rural housing issues include:

Rural Housing Advisory Group

As part of our commitment to rural areas, we established a Rural Housing Advisory Group as a sub-group of the main HCA board. The advisory group ensures that rural issues remain central to our work. The group advises the Government on and seeks ways to improve the delivery of affordable rural housing, promoting joint working between key stakeholders through the provision of a forum for sharing good practice and encouraging innovation.

Area champions

The HCA has established a network of Rural Champions around the country, who are responsible for supporting and promoting rural issues in their areas. The champions are as follows:


Rural Champion 

North West 

Jacqui Walsh  

North East, Yorkshire and The Humber  

Bill Carr
Abdul Ravat  


Sandhya Ward

East and South East  

Becky Ashley 

South and South West   

Matthew Dodd

You may also wish to consider community-led approaches to rural housing, including community right to build, which can have particlar relevance to development in rural areas.

Rural Affordable Housing Project

The Rural Affordable Housing Project is one of the mechanisms by which we are supporting local authorities and their partners’ efforts to increase and accelerate delivery of affordable housing in rural areas.

Launched in 2009, this is a joint initiative between Defra and the HCA, supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and led by our team in the South West.

We conducted 18 months of research focused on the delivery of affordable homes in rural settlements with a population of fewer than 3,000, investigated delivery challenges and are now implementing solutions. The initiative has increased awareness of rural affordable housing and the issues concerned. More information about the project can be accessed from the Rural Housing website.

Protected areas

Measures are in place to ensure that rural affordable housing - specifically shared ownership properties - remains in the ownership of local people. In these cases, providers are required to offer shared ownership properties with a lease that contains provisions either i) to restrict staircasing to no more than 80% or that ii) in instances where the leaseholder is permitted to acquire more than 80% (i.e. up to full ownership), then there is an obligation on the landlord (or a designated alternative landlord) to repurchase the property when the leaseholder wishes to sell.

See Protected Areas_HCA Explanatory note PDF (146 KB)  for information about legislation related to Protected Areas. A list of protected areas is available. Some of these are defined by entire Parish or local authority areas, others are designated by specific maps. Where they are designated by maps you may request a particular map from the Rural Affordable Housing website.

Some maps are also available online on an external link to DPA maps in PDF form. (HCA assumes no responsibility for the contact of these pages or files).

The HCA has agreed that under certain conditions, it is able to waive the particular conditions of grant relating to Designated Protected Area (DPA) status. All other conditions of grant would remain. Such an application must be made by a Local Authority.

The Local Authority application form - Word (61KB) contains more details on this policy and it can be used to apply for waiver of grant conditions.

Rural Masterplanning Fund

In response to Living Working Countryside, the government, through DCLG and DEFRA, created the Rural Masterplanning Fund (RMF). It made £1m available in technical support to local authorities with compelling ideas or needs for spatial planning. This included site-specific masterplanning, urban design, sustainable development, provision of new housing and community engagement. The RMF was administered by the HCA and CABE, and concluded in March 2011, with 46 initiatives having received support.

We have now published the lessons learned from those projects, along with 12 case studies that provide a brief snapshot of the types of work undertaken by local authorities through the Fund.

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