Housing in the UK has barely changed in 100 years, both in terms of innovation and also delivery, which makes it unique in terms of a contemporary consumer market. But custom and self build has the potential to change this, bringing vitality and quality to our new homes market. This is because this approach puts the customer at the heart of the process.
Although we are in the grips of the worst pandemic in living memory, the government has acknowledged that our broken housing market is “a problem that will not solve itself”. The good news for 2021 is that the Government is following up on its manifesto commitment to do more to encourage custom and self build – meaning that this year should see more people being able to access a home that reflects their wants and needs than ever before.
Recent government announcements have included:
- A review of the entire planning system,
- A review of the Right to Build legislation and the self build registers,
- A proposed Help to Build fundgiving people a route to finance
- A Brownfield Release Fund, which will support the delivery of public sector land for more custom and self build plots, and
- A new Right to Regeneration scheme, helping the public should they wish to purchase under-used public sector land for building a home.
Not since the Right to Build legislation in 2016 has there been such a drive to improve the outcome for custom and self build, as the government clearly sees it as a vital force for diversifying housing and driving local economies.
These initiatives mark a new phase of intervention and action that will lead to more sites coming to the market, but this requires the public to understand that they can access this market. Key to this is for more people to realise that self build (on a single plot) and custom build (on a multi plot site) is an acceptable route to housing.
What keeps people from self building?
Historically the key barriers that have stopped people from self building were finding a plot, securing finance and navigating the planning system, and all of these are easing as barriers – but not everyone is aware of this.
When NaCSBA conducted research last October into people’s perceptions of self building, it found that 59% said that finance was an issue, while 49% said getting planning permission was a hurdle, and 42% said finding a plot was a barrier. And yet, 1 in 3 people were interested in building their own home at some point, a figure mirrored in Ipswich Building Society’s own research.
So, moving into 2021 with so many announcements to improve the outcome for would-be custom and self builders is hugely exciting. The challenge now is for NaCSBA to ensure that these new proposals square up to reflect the best deal for anyone wanting to build, and that, crucially, people are aware of, and use, these measures to support them.
Help To Build
With finance being such an issue for so many, the new Help to Build scheme is eagerly anticipated, although as yet there are no announcements about how the scheme will work.
It is expected though that the scheme will support the building of a new self or custom build home with a five per cent deposit, similar to the way the Help to Buy did for mainstream housing.
The reform of the planning system should also produce a simpler and faster system, that will support a more diverse and competitive housing industry, although this may take longer to deliver.
Simply put, the future for self builders is bright! And these changes add to the existing benefits of self building, in that owner-commissioned homes tend to be more sustainable and better built than most speculative homes. Self builders also benefit from exemption from the Community Infrastructure Levy charge (where their local council applies this) and significant VAT savings (compared to improving an existing home).
Building your own home offers people the chance to craft the house that they can’t find on the open market – one that suits their needs and lifestyles, whether that be multigenerational living or an upstairs pyjama lounge!
But the first port of call for any would-be self builder remains to sign up to their local self build registers, which is vital as NaCSBA’s research showed that only a tiny percentage of the public were even aware that these exist. This will alert your council to the fact that you are interested in building. It doesn’t mean that they will find you a plot, but it does add weight to the argument for more custom and self build locally.
Look out for NaCSBA’s update on activity around the registers, as it will shortly be sharing the results of its Freedom of Information request into local authority activity around the self build registers and the duties that councils have to grant enough planning permissions for self builds to reflect the demand the registers represent. It always makes for interesting reading!
Guest post from Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, CEO of NaCSBA.