Some 42,000 self-builders have signed up to council Right To Build registers – an increase of 133% over the past three years on a trajectory housing minister Kit Malthouse pitched as having market changing potential.
And Malthouse has made that market change mission personal, telling the Commons of growing up in a self-build household over the 1970s when his parents pitched in with other families to buy a “big old Victorian” house and demolishing it to build a three-house terrace that still stands today.
Where England lags behind the rest of the UK on self-build, the government has committed over £30m to English councils to meet now statutory duties to supply sufficient land to meet self-build demand.
National planning guidance in support of the legislation is due for an update later this year.
Malthouse told the Commons that self- and custom-builders now had a vital part to play in delivering new homes that were welcomed in their communities, rather than resisted, and built to last.
“If we could increase annual levels of custom and self-build, which were about 10,000 homes in 2015, to levels comparable to the closest overseas country – Holland – we would deliver 30,000 to 40,000 homes annually,” said Malthouse.
“Any additional capacity in house-building will relieve pressure on the market and other services.”
The Commons heard councils reported some 42,000 people as signed up to Right To Buy registers, indicating an increase of 133% in the past three years.
“We will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that the legislation is as effective as possible. However, we are not complacent. If the legislation is not having the impact we seek, we will look to reinforce it,” Malthouse said.
The £4.5bn home-building fund launched in October 2016 offers £1bn in short-term loan finance targeted to self and custom builders, innovators, and small- and medium-sized enterprises.
In July, a Homes England programme to deliver the community housing fund outside London was launched, with £163m available up to 2019-20 to support community-led groups bringing forward local affordable housing schemes.
A similar programme for London is expected to be announced shortly by the Greater London Assembly.
Malthouse told the Commons of work with major lenders to ensure that relevant mortgages are available, citing the specific example of challenger bank Virgin Money recently joining the market launching new products for custom-build projects.
“As the self- and custom-build sector consolidates and mainstreams, we anticipate that the market will move into this space and provide new financial products,” Malthouse said.
Ongoing planning reforms are broadly seen as having the potential to reduce the time self- and custom-builders have to spend on appeals, particularly the prospect of ‘permission in principle’, which promises to streamline planning on smaller sites for builders and developers.
But on the basis of “more to do”, Malthouse told the Commons that, later this year, MHCLG will be publishing a Green Paper on accelerated planning to discuss how greater capacity, capability, and performance improvements can accelerate the planning process.
The government, said Malthouse, was keen on seeing more self- and custom-builders boosting housing supply.
“For too long, we have been overly reliant on a small group of large developers. Lack of diversity and competition has not been good for innovation and productivity, nor for consumer choice,” he said.
“New homes that fall short in terms of quality and character, and that lack a sense of place and belonging in the area, seem ubiquitous.”
Malthouse name-checked the Nelson project in Plymouth for veterans, and community-owned and focussed projects such as the Rural Urban Synthesis Society – RUSS – in Lewisham.
There was a salute to Cherwell, where a “visionary leader” decided that the council would embrace self-build and produced a “celebrated estate”.
But where this had not been systemised, Malthouse acknowledged a challenge in “getting amongst” civic leaders to sell self-build as part of the housing mix.
“I want to see diverse custom building across the sector, spanning in-fill, small sites and large-scale projects on ex-public sector land,” he said.
But where the Right To Build Task Force was working with a number of authorities to bring forward custom and self-build on larger sites, the Commons heard an issue had been identified in councils often adopting custom and self-build at volume and scale driven by interested parties or individuals.
“I recognise that there is still some way to go to mainstream self and custom building as a housing option in this country,” said Malthouse.
“We can make the progress necessary only by demonstrating that self- and custom-build can be affordable.”