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Action plan to boost self build in UK unveiled

Housing minister Grant Shapps has unveiled a new action plan for the self build industry that he says could be the turning point in terms of reducing obstacles that have led to the UK having one of the lowest proportions of new homes built by self builders in Europe, and that he wanted to see the self build industry become a mainstream housing option.

Earlier this year, Shapps asked the National Self Build Association and other industry experts to work with his officials to prepare an action plan to boost the number of self builders across the country, and address the common barriers aspiring self builders face.

The key issues holding the self build industry back is poor availability of land and finance, lack of support from industry for new self builders and the impact of regulation.

The industry says that changes needed including more land being available and local government needs to gauge the demand for self build and account for this in planning strategies.

Lenders also need to be encouraged to offer more finance products for those building their own home and revolving funds should be made available to support group self build schemes.

There is also the issue of over burdensome regulations hampering the growth of the sector be removed or simplified.

But the self build industry itself needs to provide clearer independent information to would be self builders and a new online self build portal is proposed to be set up to enable more people to get a project underway.

Shapps said that he has written, in discussion with the Building Societies Association, to chief executives of banks and building societies, calling on them to make more finance options available to those looking to build their own home.

He revealed that the government intends to lead the way in using publicly owned land for self build housing. It is to earmark land at Hemel Hempstead for self builders as part of plans to release more land for redevelopment and seek to identify further sites and opportunities.

There is also action underway to reduce the burden of regulation on the house building industry and through the Localism Bill to put power in the hands of communities up and down the country.

‘Self builders deliver affordable, greener and more innovatively designed homes and make a big contribution to the number of new homes built in this country. But there is still significant opportunity for growth in the sector which can only be opened up if Government and industry work together,’ said Shapps.

‘Government is already taking significant steps to make self build not only more attractive but also more accessible. But I pledge to continue pushing for further action to make self build an easier option for everyone,’ he added.

Ted Stevens, chairman of the National Self Build Association said the action plan is ‘the most positive development in the self build sector for probably 50 years’. He added; ‘If we are able to deliver on the key recommendations, we could see significant growth in the self build sector, and result in tens of thousands of additional people being able to build their own affordable properties. In turn this will create jobs, stimulate growth within the self build supply chain and help people get the custom designed, modestly priced and very sustainable homes they really want’.

Raymond Connor, chief executive of BuildStore Financial Services, said it will ‘help to trigger the new revolution of home building’. He also pointed out that growing the industry will be a massive and much needed boost for local economies and the construction supply chain, as well as aspiring self builders.

‘BuildStore has been championing self build as a valid housing procurement route for some time, and with the changing housing market creating the perfect conditions, self build is set to become mainstream. The ability for people to design and build a home to their own specifications has huge appeal, and the fact that it can be more affordable than buying on the open market makes it an obvious choice for many people wanting to get on or move up the housing ladder,’ he explained.

N&P (Norwich and Peterborough Building Society), which offers self build mortgages, agreed that finance is important. ‘Self builders don't have to get their hands dirty to undertake a self build. You can choose your level of involvement, and getting someone to manage the project for you is quite common, but carrying out sufficient research is essential,’ said Richard Barker, mortgage manager at N&P.

‘Doing it and doing it well can mean you finish with a bespoke house that is likely to have cost you a lot less than buying an established property, as well as giving a huge amount of satisfaction,’ he added.