Custom and self-build – the Right to Build Task Force shares the bigger picture
Author: Duncan Hayes, marketing and communications manager at the Right to Build Task Force
The government funds the Right to Build Task Force to support local authorities working to deliver custom and self-build homes. Find out more about the benefits of this route to delivery on the NALC-hosted event: Tackling the housing crisis the local way with custom and self-build homes on 15 March 2023.
When it comes to the role of custom and self-build in delivering new housing locally, there often needs to be more clarity around how it is perceived in both local councils and by the public. Specifically, many see it as creating unnecessarily large detached homes for a wealthy minority that doesn’t fit into their local setting.
But custom and self-build can deliver various housing types and even tenures. It is helpful to understand the breadth of the sector and the benefits it can provide locally beyond a tailor-made home. Of course, planning can shape the outcome to make it acceptable locally.
Five key points about custom and self-build that you may not know
- Legislation: As it is unofficially known, the Right to Build legislation places a statutory duty on English local authorities to host Self, and Custom Housebuilding registers for anyone wanting to build and consider this demand when carrying out their housing and planning duties. Effectively, they need to grant sufficient permissions to meet this demand on the register in a timeframe set out by the legislation.
- Government support: For over ten years, repeated cabinets have promoted the route, acknowledging its benefits and the valuable additional housing it can provide.
- Finance: More consumer products are serving the sector than ever before as it becomes more widely known.
- Planning: The statutory duty means many local authorities have a policy to support the route. This is paired with a greater understanding of the models and planning tools, such as Design Codes, that can frame development. This can reassure people – including those in the council and the community – about the development and when it will be finished.
- Land availability: A recurring issue for self-build and housing in general, but one that is slowly improving. Many developments are coming forward now as multi-plot sites supported by the improved policy landscape, although the situation varies county by county.
The benefits of custom and self-build
The Right to Build Task Force has published a note for councillors about the broader impact custom and self-build can have locally.
Here’s a quick summary of these benefits:
- It boosts local economies and SMEs — Customs and self-builders don’t typically build anything themselves; instead, they are involved in commissioning - either the whole home or the various elements of it. These homes are constructed by local housebuilders, supplied by small companies and completed by local trades, who train most of our construction apprentices nationally.
- People spend more on their home — When you’re building for the long term, most people will, where they can, invest in their home more than a volume builder would ask for a similar product. This means they create greener homes with more renewable technology, spend more on design and materials to achieve a more beautiful home, and use innovative materials, technologies and techniques, like Modern Methods of Construction. Sound familiar? This ticks many of the government’s ambitions for what it wants housing to be.
- It diversifies the local housing market — It creates homes that suit people’s needs and preferences, often by enabling them to design what the market doesn’t provide. This could include live-work homes, multi-generational or assisted living needs within families, or well-appointed homes for downsizers, meaning their family home gets returned to the market.
- It builds better — It’s no surprise that people who are more involved in creating their home are more emotionally and financially invested in the quality of their home and its efficiency credentials for when they live in it.
- It builds communities — People who make on multi-plot custom and self-build sites build relationships with their neighbours from the get-go. They experience similar journeys, and mutual understanding helps to create community bonds.
- It can build a range of homes — It’s not just about detached plots. Custom build terraced homes and affordable models are emerging, often championed by community-led projects. These are vital to the market; smaller plots mean more people can access a home that suits their life.
If you’ve read this blog, you’re well on the journey to the next step, and if you can attend the NALC event, you will get even more insight into the sector.
But custom and self-build still need support and understanding as an emerging sector, and it has a vital role in providing a route to work for SME housebuilders and creating more housing choices, so please do become an advocate.
The Right to Build Task Force is a consultancy for councils and the wider private industry. Still, it has the remit to educate, and in line with this, there’s a host of free planning resources and masterclasses to support decision-making on its website.