Local needs housing is housing required by a community for existing residents or others with a strong local connection to the area. It is widely recognised that people on low or even average incomes in rural communities face difficulties finding suitable, secure and affordable housing within the village they live and/or work in; this applies to all ages. Older homeowners also report difficulties finding a more suitable home for their needs in the village where they live and would like to remain. Enabling people to stay in their community, particularly young people and families, helps to keep village services such as schools, shops, pubs viable. It also keeps the community sustainable and diverse.
There are around 100 local needs schemes across Kent with an average scheme size of eight properties.
Due to current rural exception site planning policy, these affordable homes must be occupied by people with a strong local connection and there is no right to buy the rented homes, so they remain affordable for the community in perpetuity. If cross-subsidy is required to help finance the scheme, open market properties such as bungalows suitable for older downsizers can be included and those local residents given the first priority to buy.
RACE works in partnership with communities, Parish Councils, Local Authorities, local developers and Housing Associations to bring forward the type of affordable housing that is required. The first step is to undertake a housing needs survey to identify what level of need exists, what type of housing is required and what types of household needs it. Our surveys in Kent tend to identify that the majority need is for rented housing at below market rent (rented from the developing housing association), but there might also be a requirement for shared ownership (part rent/part buy).
The support of the Parish Council or a local community group is key to a strong partnership that drives the project. If the survey identifies a need for affordable housing, RACE can work with the Parish Council/community group to find a suitable site and liaise with the local authority. The housing association/developer will undertake negotiations with the landowner but before planning permission is sought, a village consultation event is held so that all residents can see the plans and give their views. RACE will assist and liaise throughout this sometimes lengthy process and ensure clear communication within the partnership, particularly supporting the Parish Council/community group and the wider community.
Take a look at the gallery below showing some local needs housing schemes in Kent.