Is self-build a ham-fisted way to tackle the UK’s housing crisis?
Yes, says Grant Shapps, we need to bring it into the mainstream; while Stewart Baseley thinks self-build is only an option for a small minority
Self-build may never match the size of the national housebuilders but it can still play an important part in helping aspiring homeowners.
Self-builders deliver affordable, greener and innovatively designed homes, and make a big contribution to the number of new homes built. They are already Britain’s largest housebuilder – accounting for about one in five of Britain’s new homes each year.
So I see self-build housing forming an important part of the government’s commitment to increasing the supply of affordable and sustainable homes. The vast majority of self-build homes cost less than people think and are far from the expensive, fancy homes that people associate with self-building. And because of that value for money, self-builders can have more choice to include energy-saving green products such as solar panels.
Yet the UK has one of the lowest proportions of new homes built by self-builders in Europe. Why? Because of the unnecessary barriers and regulatory burdens.
I want to improve the fortunes of self-build and bring it into the mainstream, and I’m confident that the reforms to the complex and bureaucratic planning system in the Localism Bill, the publicly owned land that we are making available for self-build, and the working group I set up led by the National Self-Build Association to advise on improving the finance and expert knowledge available, will help more aspiring self-builders turn their dreams into reality.
There is an acute housing crisis in this country – we estimate a shortfall of a million homes. Household formation projections show we should be building around 230,000 homes a year. In 2010 we built around 100,000 – less than any year since 1923.
In that context, any initiatives that help increase supply are very welcome. But we must be realistic and look at the bigger picture. Self-builders are not going to build enough additional homes to solve the crisis by themselves. We estimate self-builds account for about 3 or 4% of the total output – in England in 2006 there were 5,000 self-builds out of 166,000 new homes.
It is also only an option for a small percentage of those who want to be homeowners – cost and an understanding of construction management being obvious barriers for many. We need to find mainstream solutions.
However, the issues listed as barriers to increasing self-build are similar to those for mainstream builders. A lack of mortgage availability is the main constraint on supply. Lenders have to return to lending on realistic terms.
The government’s priority should be to finalise and explain the localism-based planning system to local authorities and deliver on its promise to reduce regulation. Housebuilding can no longer support all the costs levied on it by central and local government.
So while self-build homes may not be the mainstream housing supply solution, removing the barriers to self-building is.
What do you think?
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