National Rural Housing Week in July gave Soha, a relatively small Oxfordshire housing association, the opportunity to report that rural housing is going strong.
Soha completed an average of 90 homes a year in rural sites (defined as locations with fewer than 3000 population) in the last three years.
In Wheatley, barely two miles outside Oxford, Soha has developed 39 units, the first new affordable housing to be built in the village for a very long time. Take-up for all tenures on the development has been rapid with an unprecedented demand for shared ownership.
Ceri Stowell, 22 (left) and Emily Scully (21) are the first to move into the latest phase of Mill Green, London Road, to be released - an apartment block. Both are locals and Teaching Assistants at different special schools. Ceri had waited three years to move out of her parents’ home; Emily first applied a year ago for a transfer out of the rented accommodation she and her partner were sharing when it became unsuitable for his health condition. Both are pleased to have been able to move not far from work or friends and say that, had it not been for this development, they would have had no prospect of staying in the village.
Head of Development at Soha, Craig Dransfield, says: “Soha has a distinct social purpose to build communities as much as it builds homes. It’s tremendous to see Emily and Ceri able to stay in a location they know and close to support networks.”
He adds: “Across our entire building programme, up to 40% of properties are for shared ownership. This means many who would be excluded from the housing market in this expensive county get to buy. The National Housing Federation latest figures put the average house price in 2016/17 at £398,853.
“We sustain our programme by, where appropriate, providing large houses for outright sale to subsidise the provision of affordable homes. We also take full advantage of building through Section 106 [of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990] agreements. These are obligations imposed by a planning authority on a developer to provide an agreed percentage of affordable homes in new developments.”
Picture: Frank Dumbleton