Cumbria Rural Housing Trust to close

The Cumbria Rural Housing Trust is to close at the end of March with the loss of three jobs. 

The trust, which has run for 33 years and raises awareness about affordable housing issues in Cumbria, is reliant on funding from partners and other charitable trusts and works with local authorities, housing associations and other housing providers, developers, tenants and the wider community.

In a statement, it said changes to both funding and in government policy meant the charity’s financial situation became more precarious and forced funders to withdraw their money.

The trust said the extension of right to buy to tenants of registered providers, such as housing associations and community land trusts, could have a significant impact on rural Cumbria, with some trust members estimating that 80 per cent of their housing stock could be affected.

The government’s introduction of 'starter homes', which will be 20 per cent cheaper than the market rate, exempt from section 106 requirements for affordable housing and can be provided on rural exception sites, is also adding to the uncertainty in the sector, the trust said.

It added that budget constraints for local councils meant some were reluctant to enter into "non-tangible" service level agreements, meaning funding from these sources could not be relied upon.

The overall effect is that some of the trust’s funders have said they cannot afford to offer funding, and the trust’s statement said it "fully understands and sympathises with their difficulties".

Charles Ecroyd, chair of trustees at the Cumbria Rural Housing Trust, told Third Sector it was not a decision the trustees, who made the final decision to close the trust at a meeting earlier this month, had taken lightly.

"We saw little alternative and had taken professional advice," he said. "The most sensible course of action was to wind up our affairs and shut the door and walk away."

The trustees are currently taking advice from the accountancy firm Armstrong Watson to achieve an orderly winding-up of the trust’s affairs. The statement said the trustees would be in contact with all stakeholders in due course.

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