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Young people pushed away from the countryside owing to lack of affordable housing, survey suggests

Words: Laura Edgar
Poor public transport in rural areas impacting young people / iStock-1289759954

A survey has suggested 57 per cent of young people who live in rural areas anticipate leaving over the next five years, with 72 per cent concerned about affordable housing.

The survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of countryside charity CPRE, also found that of those aged 16 to 25 who plan to leave, 84 per cent said affordable housing was an important factor in their decision, while 76 per cent said poor digital connectivity had influenced their choice.

In addition, 84 per cent of those looking to move said loneliness was a factor. Of the respondents, 66 per cent were concerned about infrequent and unreliable public transport while 23 per cent of young people surveyed wanted to go into the workplace full-time.

The charity said the survey suggests that the government's levelling-up agenda could come too late for young people living in rural areas.

Freya Davies, 18, from Northamptonshire, a Flore parish councillor and member of the Northamptonshire Youth Crime Commission, said: “There is no way, when I eventually move out of my parents’ place, that I’ll be able to afford to stay in the village.

“In developments, very often houses are labelled affordable – they just say it’s affordable housing – when it isn’t actually affordable. You don’t find very many starter homes or rental homes. It’s just really hurtful. I put quite a lot into the village and it sort of feels like I'm being pushed out. I don’t want to go. I really like living here but there’s just no option for me.”

CPRE says its analysis shows that at current rates, the backlog of low-income families needing accommodation would take 121 years to clear, and figures show that 8,898 households were added to social housing waiting lists in 88 rural local authority areas between 2019 and 2020 – the last year for which figures are available. Just 1,453 social homes were delivered while 176,058 rural families were waiting for accommodation in 2020, up from 167,160 in 2019.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “A thriving countryside depends on young people being able to study, work and start families in rural areas. But the sad reality is that the majority of young people born and raised in the countryside feel they can no longer afford to live there – despite the overwhelming majority saying they would like to.

“A fraction of the young people we heard from feel they are listened to by decision-makers. This is troubling, for their concerns came through loud and clear. Second only to unaffordable housing, young people in the countryside said isolation and loneliness was their biggest concern. The shameful inequities of rural life mean young people growing up today struggle simply to meet up with their friends – in person or online – because public transport and broadband in the countryside has been treated as an afterthought for too long.”

He insisted that “we must do better”.

To level up the countryside, Truman urged the government to allocate £12.8 billion of funding a year to tackle the housing crisis, with a fair proportion given to rural areas to deliver affordable and well-designed homes in the Spending Review later this month.

Image credit | iStock