|New housing policies have added to a renewed confidence among property developers and buyers alike that is breathing new life into the UK residential market and self build is now set to take off as well, it is claimed.|
Self build has traditionally been seen as the preserve of those with deep pockets in the style of the Grand Designs television programme but many people have more modest ambitions, according to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles.
He said in a speech to the Policy Exchange in London that self build can boost local construction jobs as well as provide more homes. ‘In some European countries such as Austria, Belgium, and Sweden as much as half of all new housing is custom build. Likewise in Germany, where there's a strong tradition of co-operative building. I refuse to believe they are any more ambitious or creative than the British, but they have systems which support, encourage and reward self builders. And we must do likewise,’ said Pickles.
‘In the past, self builders found themselves tangled up in red tape before they ever got going. They had to bang their heads against the brick wall of a system which seemed designed to put them off. The government believes in supporting ambition, In fact, the more people who build their own home, the better. So we are addressing the problems which make people hesitate,’ he explained.
One of the first problems that self builders confront is a lack of suitable land so Pickles said that by selling off government owned land and encouraging councils to do the same there will be more plots available to this sector.
He said the government is also addressing the issue of red tape. ‘We've changed the planning system so for the first time councils must take into account the needs of self builders as part of their overall housing plans,’ he pointed out.
‘And we're working with lenders to help would be self builders get access to the finance they need and because we believe that custom building should not be the preserve of the wealthy elite we're offering £47 million worth of loans to aspiring self builders and community groups,’ he said.
‘We've also set up a website dedicated to guide people through the practical process of DIY house building and we have Kevin McCloud working with us as the industry champion to raise awareness of the opportunities are on offer and help them see that their dreams are within reach,’ he added.
The result is that the mortgage market for self builders is now more than a billion pounds. Pickles said that there are over 50 councils supporting self builders by making land available or supporting individuals and community groups with their schemes and there were 11,000 custom build projects last year, around one in 10 of all the new houses in the country.
‘But we believe we can go further, that with support and nurturing the custom-build industry can double in size over the next few years. We can make this a mainstream option not a minority interest. That is why we will do even more to increase the land available with planning guidance that asks councils to actively assess the demand for self build in their area,’ Pickles continues.
‘Councils will put together a register of interested people who can then benefit when suitable land becomes available. We will also carry out a review of the Homes and Communities Agency's land to identify more land that is suitable for small scale projects and publicise that to would be self builders. And we will strengthen the Community Right to Reclaim Land so that more publicly owned land is sold off and brought back into use,’ he added.
He also pledged to remove even more of the red tape. He pointed out that will big developers are asked to make a financial contribution to the roads, schools, parks and surgeries that are needed as part and parcel of large scale housing developments, it's ludicrous to ask self builders to pay up in the same way.
‘We're introducing a Council Tax discount for self built family annexes. And we also want to exempt self builders from unreasonable section 106 charges and from the community infrastructure levy, potentially saving self builders thousands of pounds and making projects that would otherwise be unaffordable a realistic choice,’ said Pickles.
‘And we will do even more to increase the finance available by working with lenders to extend the Help to Buy scheme to those who want to build their own home and we are putting £65 million of the Affordable Homes Guarantees programme potentially up for grabs for community groups,’ he added.