From 2-6 July, we are celebrating Rural Housing Week, a nationwide campaign that aims to bring rural communities together.
As a provider of housing, we are committed to developing property in all areas in Essex.. Although we are situated in Chelmsford, we have built in rural locations such as Dedham, close to Colchester on the border of Suffolk, Tillingham, a small village in Maldon and Ridgewell, a civil parish in Braintree.
In Uttlesford, on the border of Hertfordshire lies the small village of Clavering. With a population of roughly 1,200 people, Clavering has a well-established primary school, large village shop with a post office, and a church dating back to the 15th century.
Uttlesford is an expensive part of Essex, and has higher properties prices on average compared to the Eastern region. For example, it’s estimated the price of a new build house is £381,500 in the Eastern region compared to £539,400 in Uttlesford1. Clavering is one of the highest wards for properties in Uttlesford, with average properties prices close to £600,000.
The average income for the area is £41,000 - sixty per cent of residents in Uttlesford earn below £34,000, and forty per cent earn below £25,000. The average price for a three-bedroom home in Clavering is £500,000, making raising a deposit and obtaining a mortgage impossible for many families.
In 2006, we built a development of 14 homes on a rural exception site on the fringe of the village. The two and three-bedroom homes were only available for those with a local connection to the village, available for affordable rent and shared ownership.
Jenny van Rooijen is a resident on the close, and loves her house. She said: “Since the houses were built 12 years ago we have created a strong community, the lovely green out the front provides us with a meeting place for coffee after school pick up, picnics in the summer with all the children (of which there are 15) and many summer BBQs or street party events.”
Oxley Close includes a pretty green which the residents use for social gathering. Not content with simply providing affordable homes, we wanted to ensure their community thrived and purchased three benches for the residents.
We have a dedicated budget used to improve communal areas, and purchase equipment for all residents to benefit from. This can be anything from a bike shed, extra recycling facilities, or in this instance garden benches.
The residents were thrilled and Jenny wrote to thank us: “The benches are excellent quality and should last us a very long time. Myself and my neighbour had a giggle assembling them, with others joining in as onlookers with a cuppa in hand. They have already been used for tea on the green, after school catch-ups and my daughter’s birthday tea.”
The rural exception site in Clavering is a prime example of a flourishing community, only possible with investment from our organisation into developing the homes. Government data published in January 20172 identified that only 1,020 affordable properties were built in England on rural exception sites in the past year, a three-year low.
As property becomes increasingly unaffordable for many, it’s important housing associations continue to invest in rural communities, by building and supporting those who live there. We are committed to providing affordable housing to as many people as we can in Essex, with have future schemes under construction in Stansted Mountfitchet, Newport and Sible Hedingham.