A first for Kent as rural housing initiative delivers ten new affordable homes for rent

Published: 05/07/2024
Carpenters Yard, Shepherdswell near Dover

Kent’s first community land trust has successfully delivered ten new affordable homes for rent and is now being showcased as an example that parish councils and other community-led groups can follow to ensure enough rural homes are provided for local people.

An event to highlight the initiative has been organised in Shepherdswell near Dover on 10 July by the Rural and Community Housing Enabling service (RACE), in partnership with Shepherdswell Community Land Trust (the CLT).

RACE is an independent service for Kent and Medway, providing expertise and working directly with communities to deliver affordable housing that matches what local people need. It works with parish councils, housing teams at district councils, housing associations and developers to identify rural communities where action is needed to meet the housing needs of local people.

These type of affordable housing schemes are rented through a housing association at lower than market rent or as shared ownership (part rent/part buy). The new homes are only for people who can demonstrate a strong connection to the village. There is no right to buy the homes, which means they will forever remain affordable for the community.

RACE supports community-led housing groups such as community land trusts and cohousing and also parish councils to achieve their aim. The RACE team has worked with Shepherdswell CLT who, in partnership with English Rural Housing Association, have now built 10 affordable rented homes at Carpenters Yard, Shepherdswell near Dover and are the first CLT in Kent to do this.

Tessa O’Sullivan from RACE said: “RACE is all about bringing a rural community together, to understand what their housing needs are and to give them a voice when it comes to finding solutions that are going to work.

“We have invited parish councils, community groups, local authority housing and planning officers, developers and anyone interested in setting up a CLT to come along to our event and learn how this scheme was achieved and how the CLT has created lovely affordable homes for people with strong connections to their rural community.”

Martyn Cobb of Shepherdswell CLT said: ‘’Communicating with the parish and district councils was key to the success of this scheme. The partnership with English Rural and the guidance from Tessa at RACE kept us focused on our mission. Sometimes it was frustrating, but obstacles are there to overcome and as such Shepherdswell has ten affordable homes for rent.”

Carpenters Yard development

Carpenters Yard development, Shepherdswell near Dover

The CLT, in partnership with English Rural Housing Association, has welcomed residents into the Carpenters Yard development. Built on land acquired from the Church Commissioners, the rented homes comprise a mix of apartments as well as two and three-bedroom houses.

New resident Maria will be present at the event to talk about her and her husband’s experience of moving into Carpenters Yard and how the new home has already made such a difference to their lives, both financially and through the sense of security and peace of mind they now have.

The event takes place on Wednesday 10 July from 2pm-5.30pm at Shepherdswell Village Hall in Cox Hill, adjoining Carpenters Yard. For more information email race@ashford.gov.uk or visit the Kent Housing Group website.

RACE and its work

RACE was set up in 2023 by the Kent Housing Group (KHG), the voice of the housing sector in Kent and Medway. RACE is being hosted by a KHG member and supported by contributions from councils and housing associations working across the county. RACE provides a rural housing enabling service which was previously undertaken by Action with Communities Rural Kent.

Central to its work are housing needs surveys which it carries out aimed at the residents of individual villages and rural communities to find out whether there is a need for affordable housing locally. The survey seeks to understand whether there are older people, including homeowners who need alternative housing, maybe because their home is too large or unmanageable. The surveys are carried out by RACE usually in partnership with the parish council, which helps provide residents with the reassurance that they are being undertaken with the knowledge of their local authority.

Responses to surveys are analysed and if a need for affordable housing is identified the RACE team work with the parish council and the local borough/district authority to find a suitable site for a small development, usually of around eight to ten properties. Any plans would then be presented at a village consultation event so residents can comment. Find out more about RACE online.