Lack of suitable and affordable housing provision is one of the biggest issues today facing Hampshire and indeed the whole country. Across the UK, families, and particularly younger people and those on lower incomes, struggle to get on the housing ladder with many priced out of the market by the forces of too much demand and not enough supply. Nowhere is this problem more acute than in the rural villages of the south east, especially when it comes to affordable and family homes. We have some of the most picturesque countryside, good local amenities and the best weather in the UK – so it’s not at all surprising that many people want to live in our part of the world.
So many people spend years in rented housing while they try to come up with an ever-increasing deposit to buy their first home. The problem also causes dislocation when younger people, who have spent their whole lives as part of a particular community, can only afford to buy a house many miles away and this means less social cohesion too. Add in an ageing population, and trends like these can damage our villages and rural communities. It makes them less diverse and less vibrant.
But what can we do about it? Bluntly, there is really only one solution to this problem and it is never universally popular, we simply have to build more homes, and particularly affordable ones. Now, I fully understand that many of you may have misgivings about this. Like me, you cannot fail to have seen the increased traffic problems and the strain on our infrastructure over the last two decades.
But when housing development is built sympathetically with existing homes and fits in with the communities, it can be a real boost for the local economy and village life. We are quite fortunate in the Meon Valley to have many good developments. I remember in 2011 cutting the first sod on such a development for ten affordable homes in West Meon. The homes are now an integral part of the village community, providing extra provision for people with strong local connections. This scheme, and others like it, shows how villages can embrace the challenges of expand ing without losing their identity.