The building blocks of a self-build revolution

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell explores the Government’s Action Plan designed to encourage more people to get building.

Regular readers may recall I recently reflected on the important announcements made by the government in support of the custom- and self-build sector at the end of 2020. 

Following on from this, the Government has now published its Custom and Self Build Action Plan, with more good news and further details around the previous proposals. Taken together, these announcements represent the biggest change in custom and self build in a generation.

The headline announcement was the launch of the Help to Build equity loan. This new scheme will make it easier for those with smaller deposits to build or commission their own home. At this stage details remain limited, although the government has confirmed that Help to Build is based on proposals that we, at NaCSBA, developed.  

The version we put forward would allow selfbuilders to proceed with a smaller deposit (five per cent of the land and build cost), and with a lower mortgage rate than would otherwise be the case – so we really hope this forms the bones of the scheme.  

So far the Government has allocated a £150m pot, which is enough to support the building of around 3,000 additional homes, with the possibility of more to come. We know that custom- and selfbuilders create more than 13,000 homes a year, so an additional 3,000 would be a genuine increase in housing supplied by the sector. 

Whatever form the scheme takes, it will help more people like you to access finance for a self build. 

And it’s these extra houses that are the main motivation for the government, in addition to helping more people fulfill their dream and creating housing diversity. 

So whatever form the scheme takes, it will help more people like you to access finance for a self build. We’re hoping that applications will be open by late summer, so if it is likely to be of help to you, now may be the time to be thinking and planning your new home.

As well as drawing many more people into the market, Help to Build will encourage more companies to offer their services to selfbuilders, scaling up activity. As you will be aware, building a home needs more than just finance – it needs land with permission to build and sufficient businesses operating with the skills and materials to construct your home. The good news is that these areas are also covered by the Action Plan.

Independent review

One of the most important aspects of the plan came in an announcement from the Prime Minister. He wrote to Richard Bacon, MP and self-build advocate, asking him to undertake an independent review into the scaling up of the sector, to ensure all the component parts of a flourishing self-build market are considered. In the letter the Prime Minister states: “Our homes should maximise our creativity, our productivity and the quality of our lives. I am convinced … of the role of self build in this ambition.”

Meanwhile, the government has started its review of the Right to Build legislation to make it more robust. As readers, I know you will be aware of the Right to Build, where every local authority must keep a register of those wishing to build and ensure that there are sufficient plots to meet local demand. 

But while this powerful legislation is starting to see more self-build opportunities emerge, it is hampered by some poor behaviour by a minority of local authorities. These few would prefer to make it harder to join and stay on the registers than work to ensure that sufficient plots come forward.  

This is proving hugely frustrating for those who are seeking to build in the areas affected and we are pleased to see the government working to address the loopholes in the legislation. 

In the meantime, the government has strengthened its guidance to place more importance on the fact that a home is a custom or self build in terms of planning decisions. This does not mean that you will be able to build anywhere, but it should mean that more decisions should be made in favour of a new home coming forward.

As the Prime Minister said, our homes are important to how we live and work. The pandemic has heightened our awareness of this fact. The changes to how we work have opened up new opportunities about where we live, offering a brighter future for those looking to build or commission their own home.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell is CEO of the National Custom and Self Build Association.