No community left behind: Why diversifying investment is a must

ABRI STEPHEN

As the housing crisis trudges on, Stephen Lodge, executive director of Development and Strategic Asset Management at Abri, explains why solving the problem isn’t possible without diversifying where we build and who we seek to support

Providing affordable homes and community resources that go alongside them has always been important. Our role as a housing provider isn’t just about targeting areas with a high concentration of people, but smaller, less visible neighbourhoods where support is needed, too.

That’s why we’re investing and building homes in areas that are rural, alongside more central, city-based locations. Adopting a varied approach to supporting communities and building homes is essential.

Building ‘out of town’

While people don’t tend to connect rural living with a need for affordable housing, our market research and experience of delivering homes tells us it’s needed. The work of the Campaign to Protect Rural England – a charity dedicated to the preservation of countryside communities – is a great go-to when learning more about why support for rural areas is needed, which extends to housing and infrastructure.

Rising living costs and a lack of services mean that living in less central, more rural, locations is not easy. But it can get better when we (and by which I mean the housing sector collectively) respond by varying our services to target communities affected by these issues.

Providing affordable housing for communities where local residents are being priced out of the market is essential. And in Castle Cary, a village in Somerset, we’re doing just that.

“Rising living costs and a lack of services mean that living in less central, more rural, locations is not easy – but it can get better”

It’s about supporting local businesses too and encouraging people to live in rural settings, knowing community assets and affordable homes are accessible. Furthermore, it’s about helping aging communities by providing housing that brings younger family members back into the area.

When we’re building, we do it with the support and involvement of the local community; this, perhaps, is the most important part.

Investing in existing communities

Building homes is the first, essential step; increasing and improving local resources is the next. Less than a year ago, we launched our five-year £15m investment in 11 communities across the south of England. Among these areas are Longhedge in Salisbury and Archer’s Gate in Amesbury. Both are rural locations where homes have been built to create new, thriving neighbourhoods.

We’ve worked closely with residents to understand how we can lend a hand and help them to take the lead where they live. We’ve had lots of conversations about what our investment in their out-of-city settings might look like and put together a plan of investment that will come to life through collaboration.

We’re focusing on improving health and wellbeing, increasing employment, and empowering local people to turn their ideas into reality. We want every community to have the resources they need, whether they live in or out of town.

We’re building 10,000 new homes by 2030. Many of these will be affordable, spread out across various locations in southern England, to respond to local and emerging need for high-quality housing and attached support.

When we diversify where we do this, that’s when we are truly meeting the needs of the many – not the few.

Main image: Stephen Lodge, executive director of Development and Strategic Asset Management, Abri


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