An update on our Affordable Housing work for Rural Housing Week.

This week is Rural Housing Week 2024, which is a great opportunity to bring the rural affordable housing crisis to the forefront of people's minds.  The timing is particularly apt, as this is also the week of our UK general election, and housing is an area where political parties regularly make and break manifesto promises.

The scale of the shortage of affordable housing in the UK, especially in rural areas, is more than simply shocking, it's outrageous.   According to figures from the non-for-profit rural housing provider English Rural,  the average rural house price is 16 times the average rural income, making it almost impossible for most first-time buyers to buy their own home.  Going onto a social housing waiting list is no solution to the problem either, as according to English Rural's figures, it will take 89 years to clear the current social housing waiting list at current rates of construction. 

Infographic of stats about the affordable rural housing shortage

Although the scale of the shortage of rural affordable housing is dire, as the above infographic illustrates, the benefits of addressing the problem with practical action are also huge.   "Building just ten affordable homes can generate a £1.4 million boost to the local economy, support 26 jobs, and yield around £250,000 in net returns for the Treasury, " says English Rural in this blog piece, which is also the source of the infographic. 

Here at GRCC we are working hard with our local partners to find ways to boost the supply of affordable rural housing in Gloucestershire as a matter of urgency.  Our recently appointed Rural Housing Enabler, Tim Gwilliam, is working with community groups, housing associations, developers, landowners, and local authorities to try to find ways to urgently get more rural affordable housing built.   

"Part of my role is to find new ways to deliver affordable housing in rural areas," says Tim, who has worked in social housing for over 20 years, and also has considerable political experience as the ex-leader of Forest of Dean District Council.  "If we keep asking the same questions we've always asked, we'll keep getting the same answers."

Tim Gwilliam discusses the results of a housing needs survey with members of Haresfield Parish Council

Tim Gwilliam (centre) discusses the results of a housing needs survey with members of Haresfield Parish Council

Tim is keen to hear from communities who want to gather evidence about their local housing needs, community groups wanting to start their own housing projects, anyone who knows of possible sites for new affordable housing developments, and local people, organisations and businesses who might be able to play a part in creating more rural affordable housing.  

You can contact Tim on 01452 528491, or email him via

Our Affordable Housing Manger Cara Loukes continues her work as the coordinator of the Gloucestershire Rural Housing Partnership (GRHP), a team consisting of GRCC plus Stroud District Council, Forest of Dean District Council, Tewkesbury Borough Council,  Cotswold District Council, and the county's main social housing providers, Two Rivers, Wyedean, Rooftop, Platform, Bromford, and Stroud Housing.

Cara Loukes, standing, addresses a meeting of the GRHP

Cara Loukes (standing) addresses a meeting of the GRHP

"The GRHP remains the pre-eminent group for rural affordable housing across Gloucestershire’s districts, and is working hard to deliver desperately needed rural affordable housing in the county," said Cara. 

"Alongside our busy Housing Needs Survey Programme, the GRHP continues to foster links with SME developers and contractors and is a dynamic place for collaboration and intelligence sharing at its quarterly meetings. Whilst partners are aware of the challenges to fix the rural housing crisis, they remain passionate and optimistic for the future."

A significant strand of our affordable housing work is conducting Housing Needs Surveys in parishes, on behalf of the GRHP and other clients.   We design, deliver, analyse and report back on the surveys, which are sent out by post to every household in the target parish - though responses can be submitted either on paper or via an online questionnaire.

GRCC's Izzie Robinson sending out another batch of Housing Needs Surveys

GRCC's Izzie Robinson sending out another batch of Housing Needs Surveys

"If any Parish Council or landowner is interested in having us conduct a Housing Needs Survey, please get in touch with us," said Cara.  "The surveys are a great way to clearly identify whether there is housing need within a particular parish, and exactly what sort of people are seeking what sort of homes.  We then recommend sympathetic delivery of new housing only if the survey has clearly identified a need for it." 

As part of our work with Parish Councils on identifying and understanding housing need, we have invented a fun but thought-provoking activity that we can run at meetings, based on the concept of Top Trumps cards.   We call this activity "Meet The Brimbles  -  who are a fictional Gloucestershire family whose various housing needs are useful in triggering discussion about the issue of affordable housing in rural areas.

Meet The Brimbles card game - Rose Brimble

Where new rural affordable housing does get developed, that housing is usually built by a housing association.   However, that's not the only way for new affordable housing to be created.  Community groups can also develop housing for themselves.  This is called Community-Led Housing, and GRCC offers support to community housing groups such as Stow Community Land Trust who we are currently working with.   We are funded by Stroud District Council and Cotswold District Council to support Community-Led housing projects within their areas.

"Community-Led Housing (CLH) is bottom-up housing solutions to a top-down structural crisis," said Cara Loukes.  "It is about communities coming together and collaborating on creating their own housing - most often for social or affordable rent.  2024 has been a busy year for CLH conversations in Gloucestershire.  If you want to know more, and are within Cotswold District Council or Stroud District Council areas, please get in touch to see how we can help you."

To discuss any aspect of our affordable housing work, please email us via or call us on 01452 528491.

See also "A Manifesto for Delivering Thriving Rural Communities Through Affordable Housing," published recently by a coalition of housing associations, charities, and pressure groups, including ACRE, our umbrella organisation,  and Acre's own Rural Housing Week blog piece, "Four things the government can do to make homes affordable in the countryside."