UK house prices: Here's one way to solve the housing crisis - build homes on rural estates

Emma Haslett
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Here's one the Granthams of Downton Abbey won't like: a major housing body has suggested one way to solve the housing crisis might be to build homes on large rural estates. There goes the neighbourhood...

In a rural policy paper, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) suggested central and local government should introduce measures to "encourage landowners to release space on their estates for eight or more affordable houses".

It may have a point: if all of England's 5,000 largest rural estates built eight houses on their land, it would create 40,000 new homes.

But how to persuade the likes of Lord and Lady Grantham to take in commoners? Rics suggests measures including partial inheritance tax exemptions and allowing heirs to avoid paying taxes on affordable properties within the estate.

It's not actually a new idea: last year Lord Clinton, the largest private landowner in the country, began the process of developing 19 affordable homes in the Devon town of Budleigh Salerton.

In fact, Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at Rics, pointed out that building homes for locals was once common practice among landowners.

“At the turn of the last century, owners of Britain’s largest estates took a more patriarchal approach to the provision of affordable housing. This wasn’t entirely philanthropic, there was a common sense business motive – it resulted in a settled and readily available workforce," he said.

“There are some countryside communities where the average cost of a house can outstrip average annual wages 11 times over. Rural poverty is a serious issue that threatens to hamper regional growth."

Take Sir Titus Salt, the 19th century industrialist who built 850 homes for his textile mill workers - as well as a park, church, school, library, hospital and shops. The village, Saltaire, has since been declared a Unesco World Heritage site. Not a bad legacy...

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