March 14, 2013

A Right to Build: Local homes for local people

First time buyers and pensioners looking to downsize will be able to benefit from a radically new proposal that allows local people to buy their own plot of land and design their own custom built home.

A Right to Build says that councils that fail to hit their own housing targets should have to release land to local people who want to design their own homes. In 2012, construction began on just 100,000 homes.

Custom designed homes would be more appealing to local communities. Local people, not national or council rules, would control what new homes could look like. The land would be cheap as it would be bought by an auction process and fewer planning fees would mean a £220,000 house could cost just £130,000 to build and be more attractive, especially as it would be specifically designed for that person to live in.

The proposal works as such:

  • Landowners would participate in a sealed bid auction to develop housing not allocated under the council’s local plans. Land auctioning would put downward pressure on land prices for self build homes
  • Local people would register their interest with the council in buying a plot of the land to build and design their own home
  • The council would hold a lottery and allocate each plot of land available to a household. Existing homeowners could take up their new plot of land or gift it to a close family member (e.g. a grandparent looking to downsize, children looking to get on the housing ladder). But these could not be second homes
  • To ensure local residents would be happy with the new design, a neighbourhood plan would be drawn up that could limit what was built (e.g. no concrete, must use local materials)
  • People would have to live in the new home for at least five years to ensure that they cannot simply make a quick profit

Instead of enforcing a top down change through planning inspectors, the government could use this self-build model to ensure that councils hit their housebuilding targets, doubling the amount of new homes to over 200,000 by 2014 and giving the construction sector a much needed shot in the arm. It would show politicians really are on the side of those who want to get on in life – not just the big developers.

‘Self build’ accounts for just 10% of new housing supply in the UK – 12,000 homes in the last year. Yet 6 million people are actively interested in self-build. In the US self-build is around 45% and in most European countries it over 50% of new homes. By increasing self-build more homes would be popular. In return the government should tell planning inspectors not to permit speculative development on councils that have basic housing numbers but not a full plan in place.


“Self build could shake up a broken system in a way that would win the loyalty of local families and overcome the objections of local people. The current system has failed the younger generation miserably. It is time for government to take a fresh radical approach to homebuilding”.
Matt Griffith – Director, PricedOut

“There are literally millions of Brits keen to build their own home. But currently only a tiny fraction of those that are keen on the idea are able to realise their dreams. The main problem is obtaining a reasonably priced plot of land. If this solution took off it would transform the housing landscape of the UK, and hundreds of thousands of self-builders would be able to get the homes they really want.”
Ted Stevens – Chair, National Self Build Association


Alex Morton

Head of Housing, Planning & Urban Policy, 2010-2013

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