Housing Associations Key to Improving Rural Life; as This Week Is Rural Week 2014, Steve Jones, Chairman of the Rural Housing Network in Wales and Chief Executive of Housing Association Tai Ceredigion, Suggests It's Time for Some Reflection and Some Vision

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 9, 2014 | Go to article overview

Housing Associations Key to Improving Rural Life; as This Week Is Rural Week 2014, Steve Jones, Chairman of the Rural Housing Network in Wales and Chief Executive of Housing Association Tai Ceredigion, Suggests It's Time for Some Reflection and Some Vision


LAST month I entered the Eryri Etape cycling sportive - 47 miles though beautiful Snowdonia valleys, with more than 3,000ft of ascent and including a timed hill climb at Drws y Coed in the Nantlle Valley.

It was a great way to reflect on the challenge of rural communities - challenges which were highlighted in the independent study on Rural Housing in Wales 2008, and included housing supply construction and planning problems, rural poverty and transport, community cohesion and language issues. But what has changed since 2008? Some excellent rural housing schemes and rural enterprise facilities have been delivered, thanks to the hard work of a network of Rural Housing Enablers (RHEs), supported by Welsh Government, rural local authorities and housing associations.

The enablers are independent experts working in rural communities across Wales supporting the delivery of homes for local people.

After establishing these hardy community brokers, the next hill climb of the financial crisis has led to some local authority funding to suffer punctures.

Now is therefore the time, in my opinion, for housing association partners to take their turn at the front of the peloton with funding and other resources.

My own employer, Tai Ceredigion Cyf, has raised its funding contribution four fold for 2014/15, and is now hosting the Ceredigion and Borders Rural Housing Enabler post. It's essential work to broker community interests and bring funders, developers, land owners and public bodies together to find solutions. Building Sustainable Communities is the theme of Rural Week this year, which reflects the long term needs of rural communities.

The Welsh Government's new Sustainable Communities Strategy, anti poverty action plan, employment creation agenda and language/culture strategies are all part of our rural communities work programme.

They are all interlinked, with housing playing a key role across strategies - we ignore that fact at our peril. What does this mean in practice? In Tai Ceredigion's formal response to the recent Welsh Government consultation paper on the new EU funded Rural Development Fund Proposals, I put forward the following thoughts.

Rural housing associations are ideally placed to assist the Welsh Government in delivering sustainable rural communities due to their local community base, access to private capital funding and in-house technical and back office economies of scale.

They could be utilised by the Welsh Government as Community Enablers, building on the existing work to date in those communities via the RHE Network. …

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Housing Associations Key to Improving Rural Life; as This Week Is Rural Week 2014, Steve Jones, Chairman of the Rural Housing Network in Wales and Chief Executive of Housing Association Tai Ceredigion, Suggests It's Time for Some Reflection and Some Vision
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