This month I've been:
Council leaders to discuss the revitalised Right to Buy
‘Rapper’s Delight’ by The Sugarhill Gang to Guardian journalist Simon Hattenstone
The worthwhile Housing Report from the National Housing Federation, the Chartered Institute of Housing and Shelter.
Why shouldn't more people be able to build their own home? All too often self-build is seen as a niche interest, a project that only very few people get to complete.
Yet in a recent survey, 53 percent of people asked expressed an interest in building their own home. And last year, self-builders built more homes than many of the major developers in this country. So there's a growing number of people interested in taking on this challenge. So why is it that Britain builds the fewest self-build homes in Europe? I'm determined that self-build should be an option for the masses.
It should be clear why we are encouraging more people to do this when, according to the National Self Build Association, a self-builder can put up a three or four-bed home for as little as £150,000 compared to the average house price of £232,000. And with housing taking centre stage in our plans for economic growth, this is a further opportunity to boost UK PLC and get Britain building.
I was delighted to be able to announce a series of measures that will help prospective self-builders take their big step of seeing their designs come to fruition but also to see urban and rural regeneration, job creation and growth in sustainable housing.
Firstly, I want the self-build agenda to get greater awareness and to dispel the myths surrounding it. That's why I'm delighted that the self-build sage himself, Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs, has been appointed by the National Self-Build Association to champion their cause. I've already been to Almere in the Netherlands with Kevin to see for myself what a self-build revolution can look like.
And I'm writing to lenders to promote the self-build ideal and encourage them to offer more mortgages for those looking to build their own home. In particular, I want to see full use made of the toolkit published by the Building Societies Association, which should help more lenders to move into this untapped market.
But all too often, aspiring self-builders are turned off by the mass of red tape and the lack of advice and support as they look to lay the foundations for their projects.
That's why I was pleased that, as we replaced 1,300 pages of complex planning law into one, easy-to-understand, 52-page National Planning Policy Statement, we reflected the clear needs of self-builders. Under these new rules, councils need to include self-build in their future housing plans. And they must now take self-builders into account when looking at ways to widen home ownership in their areas.
And for the first time, current and prospective self-builders can now get help and advice from the new one-stop-shop portal (www.selfbuildportal.org.uk) that has been set up by the experts themselves. Launched in 10 Downing Street - a clear demonstration of our commitment to self-build - it also contains information on prospective sites available for self-build projects.
All these things combined are designed to give Government backing to the self-build industry, which right now is riding the crest of a wave. Over the next few years, I want to see the industry double in size, so more and more people get to make their self-build dreams a reality.