The countryside is going grey, as older people choose to remain in rural areas after retirement - or retire from cities to a place in the country. As a result they are pushing up the price of property, leaving young locals unable to afford a place of their own. The National Housing Federation is warning that this could lead to 'pensioner' pockets where diversity dies out, and almost half the population in the area is over the age of 65.
The warning came as a result of a study into what the population in rural areas would look like by 2021, which identified 27 places in the UK where at least 40% of people will be over that age (compared to the national average of 29%). The least diverse of these 'pensioner pockets' is the countryside of West Somerset, where 47% of people will be over 65.
The top ten:
West Somerset 47.4%
North Norfolk 46.3%
Christchurch (urban) 45.2%
East Devon 44.5%
East Dorset 44.2%
New Forest 42.8%
South Lakeland 42.7%
West Dorset 42.6%
It's hardly surprising that younger people are being priced out, as the study found that the cost of buying a home in 90% of rural areas is eight times the average salary in the area. This isn't far off the position in London where average prices are nine times average local salaries and there's a much wider understanding that this is posing a serious problem for residents.
The impact on younger people can be devastating, as they have to leave their friends and family in order to afford a place to live. By forcing the working population out of an area, it also causes problems for businesses trying to find local employees, who cannot locate enough skilled people of working age to staff the business.
It's not just the young, who are suffering. In many cases, ageing rural populations are also growing more isolated. There's also the risk that health and support services will be overwhelmed by the ageing population.
The Federation is calling for more new housing as the only possible solution. David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: "Our idealistic view of the English countryside is fast becoming extinct. Workers and families aspiring to live, work and grow up in the countryside can't find homes they can afford. If we don't build more homes, these places will become 'pensioner pockets' rather than the thriving, working communities they can be."
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