THE Bishop of Exeter said that “systemic change” is needed to tackle the housing crisis in rural and coastal communities. 

Opening a recent House of Lords debate on housing the Rt Rev Robert Atwell, said: “The demand for social housing in rural areas is growing at 10 times the rate of that in towns and cities. 

“In Devon, with the current rate of net additions to affordable housing stock, even if housing waiting lists closed tomorrow, it would still take more than 32 years to clear the backlog.”

Bishop Robert also said that the number of rental properties available in the county had fallen below 700. 

His speech came on the same day as a speech by the Government’s Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, which set out reforms to tackle the housing crisis focusing on urban, rather than rural areas.

The Diocese of Exeter covers the county of Devon and is one of the largest rural dioceses in England. 

With two coastlines, it also has a number of coastal communities.

The bishop accused the government of falling “woefully short” of its own affordable housing targets. 

He also said the Church had a “significant part to play”, as highlighted in the “Coming Home” report by the Archbishop’s Commission on Housing. 

He concluded: “Without partnership and systemic change, the spiral of deprivation will become more acute. 

“We need cross-departmental working and cross-party agreement to forge a coherent long-term strategy that will secure good housing and the flourishing of our rural and coastal communities.”