More than 130 local councils in England, some 39%, are already taking action to help boost the opportunities available for people who want to build their own homes, new research shows.
This first comprehensive survey of custom and self build activity across all local councils in England also shows that one in five councils have already set up a local custom and self build register or carried out assessments to measure local demand for people who want to build their own homes.
On top of this 77 seven councils are already creating opportunities for private home builders through their Local Plans, the survey undertaken by the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) found.
These involve a range of initiatives from policies asking for a mix of homes on sites and promoting private home building as part of affordable housing initiatives, to requiring building plots on larger housing sites, supporting collective projects and commitments to work with industry and local communities to identify suitable opportunities and, in some cases, providing finance support.
More than 30 councils are identifying suitable sites or locations where private home building is encouraged and in some cases are disposing of public land or buying land and a number of councils are also identifying more significant opportunities.
Opportunities include the re-use of former public sector sites, proposals to include private home building opportunities as part of future urban and village extensions, and introducing new planning policies that encourage affordable self and custom build homes in rural areas.
Councils in the North East are currently the most proactive where 70% of them are progressing initiatives to make it easier for people who want to build their own homes. Two other regions, the South West and the West Midlands, have half or more of all councils bringing forward initiatives.
The least active region is currently London, where just 21% of councils have so far taken action. However, since 2012 the overall level of local authority activity across England has approximately trebled.
The association says that if this level of activity continues then by the end of 2016, between 150 and 200 councils will have brought forward new planning policies and initiatives to support private homebuilders across England.
By the end of 2018 the combined impact of all these initiatives will assist towards enabling up to 10,000 more self or custom build opportunities to come forward and if this happens the scale of the current self build sector will have doubled.
The NaCSBA research and development team has already completed visits to several German regions, and locations across the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Scotland. In addition the team is examining the Irish, US and Australian markets, and is currently investigating how the Scandinavian and some Far Eastern sectors operate.
‘Our international work has focused on how local councils support people who want to build their own affordable homes. In most other countries a significantly higher proportion of all housing output is delivered by private home builders. We have seen a wide range of innovative ways councils facilitate developments, and numerous planning led initiatives that deliver modestly priced serviced plots for local people to build their own home at prices they can afford,’ said Mario Wolf, the leader of the research and development team.
‘We have also met with scores of English councils to discuss local opportunities and challenges and to help them develop their ideas. This work suggests that many councils are keen to support the Government’s ambition of doubling the level of private homebuilding in the UK to help address the growing need for more housing,’ he explained.
‘If realised, it will help diversify our home building industry, create local jobs and support smaller builders and thousands of suppliers up and down the country. But we have also found that councils need ongoing help to drive forward these initiatives, and that the financing of private homebuilding projects is a lot easier abroad,’ he added.
Later in the year the team will therefore publish an online toolkit that will help councils, small builders and community organisations that want to know how to deliver more opportunities. The toolkit will also include details of a wide range of inspirational projects from the UK and overseas.
In addition the team, alongside the Department for Communities and Local Government, will be working with the UK financial sector to explore how we can develop a range of new financial products to support the growth of the sector. And some of the lessons learnt from abroad will be forwarded to the Government, to see if it can support the sector further as the new Right to Build policy and Self build and Custom House building Act 2015 are implemented.