As you arrive into the village from the causeway out to Lindisfarne, there is a ‘welcome’ notice board. It records the history of the island in timeline form. All the key dates are there, the arrival of St Aidan in 635AD, the death of St Cuthbert in 698, the arrival of the Vikings in 793, and all the rest.
And, given equal status, are the key dates for ‘affordable housing phase 1 completed’ and ‘affordable housing phase 2 completed’.
Simon Schama might not agree, and David Starkey certainly won’t, but that’s what I call a balanced view of history.
Like other areas in rural Northumberland, Lindisfarne has suffered from rocketing house prices, driven by the second homes boom, and rapid rent rises, driven by shortage and competition from the holiday lettings trade. Local people could not afford to buy or to rent on the island, the school closed, and the traditional community was dying. Showing great foresight and determination, the islanders formed the Holy Island of Lindisfarne Community Land Trust (CLT), which raised charitable and community donations to fund the building of a small but vitally important number of homes for social rent.
Later, other small developments were financed by the Housing Corporation/Homes and Communities Agency. The landlord of the Crown and Anchor pub put it simply – “Getting one of these new homes means we’ll be able to stay put, carry on running the pub and be a part of the local community.” The homes will be available for low rent occupation in perpetuity, irrespective of future land value rises.
This inspirational story contrasts with this week’s report from the Countryside Alliance concerning the death of rural communities around the country caused by the shortfall in affordable homes. According to the group, almost 80,000 affordable homes are needed each year in rural areas but just 17,000 were delivered in 2010/11.
The report, ‘The critical shortfall in affordable rural housing in Britain‘, argues that rural housing remains less affordable than in urban areas due to average wages being
£4,655 lower than the national average.
As the Lindisfarne example shows, to survive rural communities need to prioritise low cost housing for rent. As in the cities, the market simply cannot do the job that communities need without positive intervention.