The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has announced his intention to turn Britain into a “nation of house builders” with a series of policies offering tax breaks and subsidies to people who want to build their own home. He said: “We’re taking practical steps which will unlock the potential and will turn our country, which is famously a nation of shopkeepers, to a nation of self-builders too.”
He said added that encouraging people to build their own homes would lead to less “homogeneous, pasteurised housing” being built all over the country. It is believed people living in the countryside will be less likely to object to custom housing than larger modern ‘hobbitat’ developments.
Currently, UK self-building accounts for around 11,000 new homes each year worth £4 billion. The new policies are aimed at doubling this in a few years so that around one in every five new homes will be a self-build.
Mr Pickles confirmed that more than 50 councils are making sites available for self-builders and 3,000 plots are already in the pipeline. Under planning guidance, councils are asked to assess the demand for self-building in the local area and keep a register of people who are interested in plots as they become available.
Over 25 lenders now offer finance for self-build loans and the Government has made £47million available to help self-builders and community groups. Mr Pickles said: “the level of resistance to self-build small development is much less than some of the larger developments. We’re working to help would-be self-builders get the access to the finance they need and because we believe that custom building should not be the preserve of the elite and the wealthy we’re offering £47billion worth of loans to aspiring self builders.”
The government has also endorsed a website, selfbuildportal.org.uk for people interested in self-building their own new home. Self-builders will also be exempt from Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy payments.
Pickles said: “In some European countries such as Austria, Belgium and Sweden as much as half of all new housing was custom-built. I refuse to believe they are any more ambitious or creative than the British, but they have systems, which support, encourage and reward self-builders. And we must do likewise,”
“In the past, self-builders found themselves tangled up in red tape before they ever got going. They had to bang their heads against the brick wall of a system, which seemed designed to put them off. This is a government, which believes in supporting ambition – in fact, the more people who build their own home, the better. So we are addressing the problems which make people hesitate.”
However he warned house builders and developers that “tricksy schemes” where developers pretend that projects are self-build will not be tolerated. He also ruled out imposing new ‘garden cities’ in parts of the country as a solution to housing shortages, despite both David Cameron and Nick Clegg supporting the principles of garden cities and the building of new towns across middle England.
As the house builders clearly have a vested interest in limiting the number of new homes they build each year, this “Help to Build” is a welcome initiative and far more constructive than handing large state subsidies (Help to Buy) so house builders can boost profits.