Supporting rural housing

Working together for rural communities

Matt Weaver, Head of Real Estate for Business Banking, discusses rural housing and how we’re supporting new developments and opportunities in the industry.

The countryside can be a great place to live but for many local residents and rural workers it is becoming increasingly difficult to find accommodation that suits their needs.

Two of the main reasons for this are, unsurprisingly, cost and availability. There is a lack of affordable housing in many rural areas, with prices often driven up by their desirability as locations for second homes.

It is causing problems for a range of people that want – or need – to live there, such as farm workers and others who are employed in rural businesses. As well as needing to support locally employed workers, there are social needs to consider too.

Many people wish to remain in the community they’ve grown up in, or want to be near to other family members. These groups of people can, and often do, want to reside in areas where it’s currently very difficult for them to do so.

Working together

There are no easy solutions but the good news is that the problem has been recognised. Various people – from government and industry groups to landowners and developers – are trying to find an answer.

Barclays is one of those attempting to help in backing rural housing developments that are commercially viable and meeting the needs of local communities.

“One of the ways we’re supporting residential developers and investors is by working closely with different teams within Barclays including Agriculture,” says Matt Weaver, Head of Business Banking Real Estate at Barclays.

“That team has lots of contacts with landowners, farmers and other people who could potentially have land availability. Our Real Estate team has connections with SME developers and investors and we work across teams to try to bring everyone closer together”

Support in action

One new development with affordable homes at its heart is located in the Kent village of Aldington.

Local business Paul Browne Homes, which focuses on small-scale residential projects, began construction work on a 10-unit site in the summer of 2017, with work due to finish in October 2018.

Out of the 10 units, 4 have been pre-sold to a local housing authority, while another 2 are classed as affordable homes and 2 will be sold as shared ownership. Barclays provided funding for the majority of the build cost.

Challenges and opportunities

While the will may be there, there are still many challenges involved in increasing the supply of affordable rural housing.

Gaining planning permission can be a lengthy process. There are also environmental concerns to factor in, whether related to the developments themselves or simply the impact of bringing more people into an area.

But there are plenty of opportunities too. Matt says one is in repurposing land on the fringes of villages and small towns that would once have been used for industry, while another comes from farmers wanting to diversify.

“This could, for example, be converting old barns into residential properties, or it could be renovating them into mixed developments that include commercial properties such as local business units,” he says.

Where Barclays can add extra value is in the expertise and insights it can leverage across different sectors.

“We have a wide mix of teams that work closely together and that cover a broad range of funding requirements” says Matt. “It’s all about connectivity – putting businesses in touch with other businesses and making it work for all sides.”

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