This Rural Housing Week is likely to be dominated by the long term impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) recently discussed how a fall in property prices is likely to lead to a reduction in affordable housing in rural areas.

It seems ironic, but as many affordable housing is created through a levy on developers (Section 106), some developers are using a fall in property values as a way of opting out of supplying their affordable housing levy! This is a real concern as many people, young and old, decide to leave the towns and villages where they grew up, for places which are actually affordable. Local businesses lose custom, and these places lose their community cohesion.

The Almshouse Association believes that we have at least part of the solution to this problem. Almshouses are a one thousand year old answer to an age old question around truly affordable, community housing. Today some 36,000 people enjoy independent living in an almshouse community. Many people are not aware of almshouses or how they operate. Historically, almshouses have been started through the philanthropic ventures of a local wealthy individual. The accommodation provided is of genuine high-quality with a focus on community engagement and interaction. These are not just sets of housing which gentrify an area. Instead they are rooted in the communities they serve, with a focus on maintaining a level of affordable community housing in perpetuity by their exemption from Right to Buy. Residents do not pay rent but a Weekly Maintenance Contribution which is below the average rent in the area and helps to maintain the upkeep of the almshouse. Residents live independently in a supportive community where they otherwise would have struggled with lengthy council house waiting lists or extortionate private rent.

Almshouses are often well supported in rural areas under the Rural Exception Scheme as they are restricted for those people of the local community forever.

Around the country we see communities embracing almshouses and the benefits they bring. We are proud that many new developments are embracing environmentally friendly solutions, ensuring that the almshouses provide high-quality accommodation and are sustainable for the future.

We believe that almshouses are the ideal rural community housing solution. A solution for the benefits of the local community, led by the community.

Posted 6 July 2020