Following the announcement of the winning bids for Scotland’s innovative Self- and Custom Build Challenge Fund, Custom Build Strategy spoke to Housing Minister Kevin Stewart MSP about Scotland’s visions and expectations for Custom Build, and the additionality and diversity it can offer to its housing supply market.
Scotland has shown great home-grown innovation in housing diversification, from Bantaskin Street to the Highland Self-Build Loan Fund. But so far this has been small in scale. What potential do you see in Custom and Self-build for growth and diversification?
“The Custom and Self-build sector offers great opportunities to expand the options for the delivery of homes to meet demand and to provide more flexibility across Scotland.
“The sector makes a substantial contribution to housing delivery across Europe and we want to see it thrive as an additional mainstream housing choice in Scotland at all scales.
“Custom and self-build also offers potential to help increased delivery of affordable, accessible and specialist homes and the pilots selected by the Challenge Fund will also explore how this can be achieved, diversifying the supply of housing.”
Are you considering a policy approach to ring-fence the sector, with the possibility of registers, like the English Right to Build? In particular, where does this leave planners and housing professionals that are trying to work out if the demand exists for advancing plots and schemes?
“We are currently progressing a review of the planning system in Scotland, with a Planning Bill before Parliament.
“A review of national planning policy will follow on from legislation and allow for consideration of the appropriate policy approach for custom and self-build as part of the wider consultation on National Planning Framework 4, incorporating the Scottish Planning Policy.
“We are exploring registers and the evidence base for demand as part of our ongoing work stream on Custom and Self-build and related work on the expansion of digital planning services.
“The outcome of the pilots will inform further work on supporting the sector, including any policy response.”
What are you hopes that the Simplified Planning Zones will deliver?
“We are working with four pilot authorities (Aberdeenshire, North Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Argyll and Bute) to bring forward Simplified Planning Zones (SPZ). These are currently at the planning, rather than the construction stage.
Do you have any plans to further boost the Self Build Loan Fund?
“Following a review of the Self-build Loan Fund pilot in the Highland area, I announced in November that we would make a £4m fund available to assist self-builders with up to £175,000 development costs related to their build.
“These loans will be available to people across Scotland in both urban and rural areas to help self-builders reach build completion, allowing them to access a traditional mortgage which can then be used to repay the loan.
“This will be available mid-year 2018 for a three-year period. Once the scheme is operational, we will closely monitor the popularity of the fund to ensure that it provides the widest benefit across Scotland.”
With regards to the Challenge Fund, what are your hopes for the projects to deliver? Is affordability one of the benchmarks for measuring success with these?
“The aim of the fund is to test delivery models that could be used to increase the amount of custom and self-build homes across Scotland.
“The pilot projects selected are those which clearly demonstrate outcomes and characteristics which can be replicated in scale and location and help to bring greater choice and diversity of housing supply.
“I hope that the projects will deliver strong case studies which can inspire the expansion of the sector – affordability is a key consideration and is fundamental to a number of the pilots, providing a wider choice in housing options to people who wish to have more choice over the way their home is designed, how it looks and meets their individual needs.
“Ultimately, our support for self and custom build sits right alongside our wider priority for housing – ensuring everyone has a safe, warm place to call home.
“Whether it is our firm commitment to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes over this Parliament, backed by £3 billion, to our support for buyers, including our Help to Buy and Shared Equity schemes – we are determined to see the right homes in the right places, and with that meeting the needs of individuals and communities across Scotland.
“Self and Custom Build is just a further, innovative way to achieve that commitment, and I am really excited to see the potential initiatives and developments it can support.”
Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government and Housing, Scottish Government
Scotland’s achievement’s in custom build are to be applauded. NaCSBA has been working with Scottish Government to support it’s policy reviews and Scotland’s measures build on a strong tradition of Self-build across the country. The fact that so many projects are exploratory is a good approach to establishing appetite and scope for the sector, the challenge now lies in ensuring uptake and success, from the industry and public.