Farron leads Commons debate on affordable homes for rural areas
The government must tackle the causes of rural Britain's affordable housing crisis if they are to prevent an exodus of young people from Britain's rural areas according to Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs Spokesperson Tim Farron MP.
Speaking during his own Westminster Hall debate on affordable housing, Mr Farron revealed how a combination of high second home ownership, low average wages and government housing diktats had created a severe shortage of affordable housing in rural areas.
Mr Farron called on the government to scrap the Regional Spatial Strategy and allow local communities to make their own decisions about where housing should be situated. Mr Farron also demanded local authorities be allowed to set a higher levy on second home owners to raise funds for innovative schemes such as Tim's own Home on the Farm.
Commenting Mr Farron said:
"The problem of the lack of affordable housing exists nationwide - in urban and rural areas. But the problems that affect rural Britain are acute and they require action that is specific to the needs of rural communities.
"Because of the affordable housing crisis we lose 30% of our young people each year and they don't come back. The average age in Britain is 39, but the average age in South Lakeland is 50 - that's the evidence of a community losing its youth because it cannot house it.
"The government needs to act now to protect rural communities. The spatial strategy should be scrapped and work should instead begin within local communities to find the best ways to support small developments of social and affordable housing.
"This also means ending the council tax subsidy for second home owners in areas like Troutbeck and the Langdales in South Lakeland where 60% and 70% of the properties are second homes. Local authorities would then be able to use the money raised to fund local schemes, such as Home on the Farm, to create more affordable homes for local people."
In response to being pressed by Tim, the Minister responding, Barbara Follet agreed to take further action to encourage banks to lend to first time buyers who wish to purchase affordable homes. At present, many affordable homes for sale are lying empty due to the failure of the banks to provide mortgages on homes with an affordability restriction."