Conference probes rural housing crisis

THE lack of affordable homes and the impact of the credit crunch on rural areas is to be tackled today at a conference in East Anglia to be attended by top executives from across the housing, economic and finance sectors.

Graham Dines

THE lack of affordable homes and the impact of the credit crunch on rural areas is to be tackled today at a conference in East Anglia to be attended by top executives from across the housing, economic and finance sectors.

The Commission for Rural Communities is hosting the `Rural Experience' during which delegates will visit villages and a market town in Essex to see for themselves the impossible position facing first time buyers who need eight times their annual income to be able to afford even the cheapest properties.

Sir Bob Kerslake, chief executive of the homes and communities agency is leading the conference. He said: “This will provide a unique opportunity for us all to experience what life is like for people living in rural areas and the impact of the market downturn.”

Dr Stuart Burgess, chairman of the Rural Communities Commission and the government's rural advocate, said: “The lack of affordable housing is the single most pressing issue facing rural communities.

Key decision-makers will now have the opportunity to see and hear about some of the issues facing rural communities at first hand.”

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Delegates spent last night at Great Hallingbury and their first visit today is the village of Abbess Roding before heading for Great Dunmow to meet Kate Robson, the district manager of Uttlesford Citizens Advice Bureau, and local people in housing need.

After visiting the Saffron building society to hear about mortgage trends from broker Michelle Milne, they will then receive a presentation on the state of the housing market from an estate agent.

In Thaxted, they will tour a successful rental and shared ownership scheme called Little Maypole and run by Hastoe Housing Association which owns and manages more than 3,500 homes throughout southern England.

Delegates today include David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation; Gideon Amos, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association; Adam Sampson, chief executive of Shelter; Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England; Jackie Bennett, head of policy at the Council of Mortgage Lenders; Adrian Coles, director general of the Building Societies Association; Deborah Cadman, chief executive of the East of England Development Agency; Elinor Goodman from the Commission for Rural Communities; the Rt Rev Christopher Morgan, Bishop of Colchester; and Nick Shuttleworth, director of the rural community council of Essex.