In his regular column, WAYNE REYNOLDS, director of Atriarc Group, reviews affordable housing practice in rural communities:

IN THE December issue of Wales Farmer I addressed the topic of rural enterprise dwellings. But what are the options for those without land or buildings currently available to address rural housing needs?

New housing in the countryside is a contentious issue – not least due to the lack of affordable dwellings being developed for the next generation of homeowners.

For many the prospect of purchasing a dwelling within a rural village or town is limited due to the cost of property and since the restriction of high loan-to-value mortgages.

The price of land is also limiting the number of self-builders coming forward.

However, there are a number of options coming onto the market to assist rural buyers looking to purchase a home for the first time.

Many of the major house-builders now offer shared ownership schemes, which retain a percentage of the property until a fixed point in time, or to be retained until the property is sold. These schemes effectively reduce the level of risk to mortgage lenders, allowing a lower loan-to-value ratio for first time buyers.

However, if the housing market does rise, the level of gain for the owner is reduced. Equally if the market falls further, the amount repayable would also fall.

Many Registered Social Landlord (RSL) providers also offer home-buy schemes which perform a similar role, substituting the cost of purchasing a property by taking a share of ownership (typically between 30% and 50%).

A help-to-buy scheme was also announced in England in 2013, however the Welsh Government has yet to confirm if a similar scheme will run in Wales.

While many new developments require a percentage of new dwellings to be allocated for affordable housing requirements; due to the scale of building in rural areas many schemes fail to provide sufficient affordable homes to cater for the demand. Where shortfalls in supply are identified there is flexibility in the planning system to allocate bespoke sites for affordable housing projects.

However, these are few and far between as speculative applications on un-designated land often raise considerable local objection.

Furthermore, the costs associated with meeting any planning requirements are often far higher, for example to evidence local need or prove insufficient land supply is currently retained within the planning system to cater for forecasted growth figures.

Many local authorities in Wales have recently adopted new plans, or are in the final phases of identifying future lands for development, hence speculative applications are less likely to occur in the near future.

While many people wait for properties to come on to the market, for those eager to secure their first step on the property ladder, why not contact local RSLs and house-builders to see if any schemes are coming forward in your area (and register your interest at a pre-construction stage)?

With a clear demand for property, it may even encourage companies to reconsider stalled sites if further government funding becomes available for projects.

For further details or enquiries contact Wayne Reynolds on 01994 220667 or email wayne@atriarc