While multifamily builders and developers eagerly await publication of the National Green Building Standard from the National Association of Home Builders, the first and only consensus-based standard for all residential construction, renovation and development, our friends from across the pond recently released research on rural England that could provide a blueprint for success here in America for savvy builders looking to stay ahead of the competition.

According to "the tenth report in the series providing the definitive picture of rural England quality of life may often be better in rural areas but a rise in households living in poverty and a growing inequality between remote rural areas and other parts of the countryside remains."

"The decline in services in rural areas continues to concern rural communities. Each year we have found there are fewer outlets for many services and poorer accessibility to services for people without cars," said Dr. Stuart Burgess, Chairman of the CRC. "Use of the Internet has risen markedly in rural areas (from 44 percent in 2002 to 62 percent in 2007), and rural Internet users are more likely to use it for accessing services, but the availability of high-speed broadband remains low in sparsely populated areas."

Housing affordability, the report noted, continues to be worse in rural areas. In 2007 the average rural house price was £257,600 compared with £212,823 in urban areas, with rural house prices 6.8 times annual household income, compared to 5.8 times in urban areas. In some more sparsely populated rural areas, however, house prices can be up to 9.7 times annual household income.

"Rural economies continue to show inherent strengths; a higher rate of business start-ups than urban areas and overall growth in the number of businesses compared to a net decline in the urban business base. However, wages for people working in rural areas continue to be low and for many work is not a secure route out of poverty," added Burgess. "Between 1998 and 2007 rural economies have seen an increase of 291,000 in those working in knowledge-based industries, a growth of 46 percent compared with 21 percent in urban areas."

The report noted that people in rural areas generally enjoy healthier lifestyles and a better quality of life. Most households moving into rural England are now families with people aged from about 44 to 64 with young children. This contrasts with a more general pattern of slowing internal (within UK) migration over the last two years and a slowing in overseas migration in the last year, following a sharp increase from 2004.

"New issues are coming to the fore that were not considered significant for rural areas in the past. These largely flow from global and long-term challenges, including climate change or developments in the global economy such as growing consumption in developed countries," added Burgess. "Changing use and the demand for land, such as the possibility of diverting land from food to energy production, are occurring due to such trends. With changes in the world economy and international security, food security is likely to, once again, drive policy."

The CRC’s "State of the Countryside" reports critical issues and significant ongoing challenges for England. For U.S. builders, the time is now to consider these impacts in the states and what can be done here to maximize profits and communities. The ones who stay ahead of the curve may have a better chance at surviving and growing during these changing times.

Log in to comment