One of the north east’s largest providers of affordable housing is marking Rural Housing Week at a development in a County Durham market town.
There are 40 new homes being built at West End Villas in Crook, as part of County Durham Housing Group’s £32m investment programme. The development of two and three-bedroom family houses, plus two and three-bedroom bungalows, are part of the group’s commitment to building new homes in rural communities.
Rural Housing Week is an annual initiative by the National Housing Federation that aims to highlight the vital role that affordable housing plays in the long-term survival of all communities.
The first of the 40 new homes are rapidly approaching completion. All will be offered for affordable rent with tenants expected to pick up their keys in stages between August and November.
County Durham Housing Group Chief Executive, Bill Fullen, said: “Crook is a busy market town at the heart of a large rural area. Like similar towns up and down the country demand for affordable homes has probably never been higher.
“For decades the number of affordable homes in rural communities has been eroded by Right to Buy sales and the challenges that housing associations like us faced in constructing new properties. We’re really pleased that we’re starting to turn the tide in County Durham with developments like this one in Crook.
“Far too many people view the housing crisis as an issue confined to big cities. Nothing could be further from the truth. Families living in rural areas have the same concerns about access to affordable housing and we’re determined to do what we can to meet their needs.”
Construction at West End Villas is being carried out by Galliford Try Partnerships North, which has contributed £1.2 million to the project from its 2015-18 Affordable Homes Programme (AHP) grant, secured from Homes England.
During the last two years, Galliford Try Partnerships North has developed 215 new homes in rural areas. The 40 homes in Crook will take the total past 250.
Andrew Rennie, Development Director with Galliford Try Partnerships North, added: “The need for more affordable homes in rural areas is often overlooked but it is just as pressing as in urban communities. We are pleased to be playing our part in addressing the issue and improving the quality and choice of rural homes in County Durham.”
More than 10% of County Durham Housing Group’s new-build programme is being targeted at communities that are defined as rural.
Cllr Kevin Shaw, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, said: “Providing affordable homes in rural areas is incredibly important, particularly in areas such as ours, where there are many rural communities.
“These new homes will go a long way towards meeting the demand for affordable properties a popular part of the county.”
The most remote properties completed so far have been two-bedroom bungalows in the tiny upper Weardale village of Rookhope. The village has a population of under 300 and the bungalows were the first new affordable homes in the community for more than 50-years.
In total over 300 new homes are being constructed on 17 sites throughout the county as part of County Durham Housing Groups current new-build programme.