Rural communities have felt the impact of Coronavirus and lockdown often more dramatically than more urbanised areas. With local businesses being the main focus point for employment and community, the loss of income and closing of them has hit local people the hardest. Feelings of isolation and social disconnect are also prevalent for those people who do not have high-speed internet, whose only bus route was cut off, and whose only local shop or pub has closed, cutting a main connection for the community.
In rural areas housing associations often act as the glue connecting local communities together, and this is more important now than ever. They play a vital role in supporting people and communities through their homes and services, which is a mission they are clear to progress beyond lockdown. There have been fantastic examples of rural housing associations supporting residents and the wider community during lockdown.
In Cornwall, Coastline Housing has been working closely with Cornwall Council to prepare emergency accommodation, enabling hospital patients to be discharged with support more efficiently. Separately, Coastline has also set up Click & Connect, a service run via a Facebook page where residents contribute their hobbies and get connected with others with a similar creative interest – successfully joining up some of the most vulnerable people living in the area.
The National Housing Federation’s (NHF’s) plan for social and economic recovery puts homes and communities at the centre in every part of the country. They have put forward five clear ambitions for the residents and places that housing associations serve:
- No return to rough sleeping
- A new generation of affordable homes
- Helping people to thrive at home
- A new drive to decarbonise social housing
- Change for communities across the country
For rural areas, the development of much-needed affordable homes offers the lifeblood that villages need to keep their shops, pubs, services and communities alive. Each new home built represents jobs in that community, a home for essential workers, and a chance to expand the community.
Housing associations cannot achieve the ambitions of the sector alone, and in order to deliver the next generation of homes that rural communities need, The NHF has started a #HomesattheHeart national campaign to help bring forward significant investment in building high-quality affordable homes.