Housing policy tends to end up packaged up into short catchphrases; Right to Buy, Pay to Stay, Help to Buy, Build to Rent and so on. The latest of these is the Right to Build, which comes into effect from October 31st (today). The aim of this in simple terms is to make it easier for those with the ambition to become self or custom builders to gain access to plots of land. This quietly processed piece of legislation has potentially drastic changes to a growing sector of the housing market. It is more or less common knowledge that the private market has proved unable or unwilling to plug the supply gap since the straitjacket on local authorities was buckled tight through the imposition of borrowing caps from the mid-1980s onwards. The custom build and self build industries in this country have emerged, almost reluctantly, against the will of monopolising volume housebuilders and have only prompted legislation by swelling demand from would-be customers.
The bill originally proposed that councils would be responsible for providing serviced plots which would be appropriate for individual or collective builders. However the complex reality of undertaking this task in the context of dwindling local authority resources meant that this became refined as a requirement to maintain a list of those willing or considering to build (in varying degrees) their own home.
The success and popularity of similar housing sectors in other Northern European states, combined with the freedom and open-sourced potential of developing technology would hint at this being a no-brainer. The UK market has proved typically suspicious about the idea, mainly given the inertia and lack of investment in what is perpetually deemed a risky boom-and-bust industry.Perhaps the best place to start when unpacking this policy is in addressing the cost and accessibility to land. Land value taxation for instance would be an effective way of forcing developers who bank land into building on it or sell up. Stringent planning and zoning policy in favour of custom and self builders on local authority land would limit risk with, for example, custom build developers and the open the possibilities for a more varied typological approach to developing sites.
Media outlets in home improvements and DIY serve their purpose of fuelling desires or confirming embedded suspicions among Britain’s potential custom and self builders. However the sector is now longer confined to the time-rich upper middle classes but to both the young and old generations as a meaningful alternative to the dreary options proposed in the new-build housing marketplace. Policy has been late coming, led by Richard Bacon MP and backed by heavyweight industry evidence, the new act will now require local authorities to grant planning permission for self and custom build development in line with the demand recorded from local authority registers. Interest from those willing to engage in this opportunity for a more customised and user-specific solution is vital to maintain momentum.
Register with your local authority here