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20th April 2018


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Let local people build their own homes, says think tank

First time buyers and pensioners looking to downsize will be able to benefit from a radically new proposal that allows local people to buy their own plot of land and design their own custom built home.

A new report by Policy Exchange says that councils which fail to hit their own housing targets should have to release land to local people who want to design their own homes. In 2012, construction began on just 100,000 homes.

Custom designed homes would be more appealing to local communities. Local people, not national or council rules, would control what new homes could look like. The land would be cheap as it would be bought by an auction process and fewer planning fees would mean a £220,000 house could cost just £130,000 to build and be more attractive, especially as it would be specifically designed for that person to live in.

The proposal works as such:

- Landowners would participate in a sealed bid auction to develop housing not allocated under the council's local plans*. Land auctioning would put downward pressure on land prices for self build homes

- Local people would register their interest with the council in buying a plot of the land to build and design their own home

- The council would hold a lottery and allocate each plot of land available to a household. Existing homeowners could take up their new plot of land or gift it to a close family member (e.g. a grandparent looking to downsize, children looking to get on the housing ladder). But these could not be second homes.

- To ensure local residents would be happy with the new design, a neighbourhood plan would be drawn up that could limit what was built (e.g. no concrete, must use local materials)

- People would have to live in the new home for at least five years to ensure that they cannot simply make a quick profit

Instead of enforcing a top down change through planning inspectors, the government could use this self-build model to ensure that councils hit their housebuilding targets, doubling the amount of new homes to over 200,000 by 2014 and giving the construction sector a much needed shot in the arm. It would show politicians really are on the side of those who want to get on in life - not just the big developers.

'Self build' accounts for just 10% of new housing supply in the UK - 12,000 homes in the last year. Yet 6 million people are actively interested in self-build. In the US self-build is around 45% and in most European countries it over 50% of new homes. By increasing self-build more homes would be popular. In return the Government should tell planning inspectors not to permit speculative development on councils that have basic housing numbers but not a full plan in place.

Alex Morton, author of the report, says: "Instead of antagonising people with centrally imposed and mediocre or poorly designed new housing developments, the government could instead work with councils to sell off plots of land to local people to design their own homes at a much cheaper price.

"Grand Designs depicts self build homes as playthings of eccentrics. They don't have to be. Under our proposals local people would be able to choose a beautiful thatched cottage or Victorian house which would also boost the value of nearby properties.

"This self-build scheme is the last real option to raise private housing numbers before 2015. It also would be popular with people and elected officials."

Matt Griffith from PricedOut, agrees with the principle, saying: "Self build could shake up a broken system in a way that would win the loyalty of local families and overcome the objections of local people. The current system has failed the younger generation miserably. It is time for government to take a fresh radical approach to homebuilding".

Ted Stevens, Chair, National Self Build Association, is keen on the idea too. "There are literally millions of Brits keen to build their own home," she says. "But currently only a tiny fraction of those that are keen on the idea are able to realise their dreams. The main problem is obtaining a reasonably priced plot of land. If this solution took off it would transform the housing landscape of the UK, and hundreds of thousands of self-builders would be able to get the homes they really want.

29th March 2013

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