With a new Housing Minister in post, NaCSBA chair Michael Holmes shares the key areas for NaCSBA moving ahead, and how these build on its Manifesto pledges of 2017.
Last year the National Custom and Self Build Association issued its 10-point Manifest setting out its campaign priorities. With Dominic Raab the third Housing Minister in 18 months, we’re planning to review and refresh these commitments for 2018, prior to communicating with him about what we feel the sector needs to flourish in terms of Government support.
The first point on our manifesto was to raise public awareness of the Right To Build, and this remains the number one priority. We feel that the success of the Right To Build legislation is crucial for the entire industry, as it holds the power to transform the land supply market.
The Right To Build is a demand-driven policy, and without the demand an increase in the supply of serviced building plots – critical to helping more of those who want to build their own home to access the land market – is unlikely to happen on the scale a scale that will meet real demand.
We recently announced that there are now 33,000 people signed up to build with the Right To Build registers. While this is great progress, in no way does it reflect the million or so people that successive Ipsos Mori polls surveying self build intentions suggest are actively planning to build their own home.
It is this missing demand that’s driven our work with Three Dragons planning consultancy to develop a longer-term demand assessment tool. This will provide independent, robust evidence for self and custom build by geographic area, helping local authorities assess demand for their plan making, as they are required to do so under the National Planning Policy Framework. It will also complement the Right To Build registers’ picture of shorter term evidence for custom and self-build demand.
A key element of our commitment to the legislation is our continued support of the Right To Build Task Force, which has been operating for a year now. This is vital in supporting local authorities, community groups and other stakeholders who require assistance in facilitating the creation of serviced plots, especially for affordable custom and self build homes.
With regards to making custom and self-building open to people with smaller deposits, we’re in early discussions with Government and lenders about the possibility of introducing a Right To Build Equity Loan Scheme.
This builds on point two of the manifesto, enabling the sector to compete with Help To Buy, which effectively subsidises the mainstream newbuild market.
Ideally, this would link into a campaign element to promote the Right To Build in a bit of joined up thinking. The idea is that this would equalise access to custom and self-build with other forms of newbuild, meaning that consumers would only need a 5% deposit.
Another key consideration for the sector is that many people who would like to build, are currently faced with issue of having to move out and sell their home in order to release the equity to build.
The prospect of doing this, and having to go into short term rented accommodation, or even a caravan, is too much of a disincentive for the average person.
This just isn’t a problem for wealthier, older generations, but we want to see the sector open up to a far wider range of people, making it more of an affordable choice, which in turn will help scale it up.
A Help to Build Equity Loan scheme could also help facilitate this, opening up the build route to a far greater range of people and remove a significant barrier to the custom and self-build sector.
NaCSBA remains committed to making custom and self build a mainstream housing choice across the whole of the UK and will continue its successful and productive engagement with Government in Scotland and Wales.
A policy initiative that will be given much attention is the potential to use exception site policy for custom and self build homes in rural settlements.
Many small settlments have no development boundary and therefore proposals for new self build homes are treated by planning policy as isolated new homes in the open country and therefore not sustainable development.
NaCSBA views this as anachronistic and will explore the idea of how exception policy might work in these instances, allowing small settlements to grow incrementally, as they have always done historically prior to current planning regime.
All the usual policy to prevent inappropriate development would remain in place. Local councils may apply a local connection test to ensure the development of the site meets local housing need.
There is much work to be done on this initiative before it can be put forward, but with a review of the NPPF expected imminently, now is the time to bring this forward, releasing 1000s of plots and bringing a new lease of life to many villages and other small settlements.
The additional manifesto points still stand as goals for NaCSBA, such as the tax changes and calling for the public sector to release more land, especially to feed into community-led housing groups and serviced plot providers.
These remain lobbying areas that NaCSBA will be actively pursuing – in fact we’ve already invited new Housing Minister Dominic Raab to meet us for initial discussions.
We’re also going to maintain our engagement with Garden Communities. The sector offers a real opportunity to diversify these new settlements, bringing on a range of housing models for the future residents.
The Task Force has already been very active in this area. And we believe that some of these Garden Towns and Garden Villages could have the capacity for up to 20% of the available land to be allocated for custom or self-build plots, or even affordable or starter homes that combine elements of customisation. This would put community at the heart of these new settlements.
Looking ahead, custom build starter homes is also a key growth area. NaCSBA recognises that many public sector or armed services personnel struggle to get on the housing market.
We feel that if there’s public sector land available, then it could be prioritised to help key workers access housing, especially if they live in high-value areas but are not highly-paid themselves.
This could be through serviced plots or starter homes, as an intermediate solution that helps housing become more affordable to more people. This would also help resolve recruitment and retention problems due to high-cost housing. While it’s early days, we believe that there’s a lot of potential in this concept.
Beyond these main points, there is plenty that we’re focused on as well, such as CIL and Section 106 rulings, tax issues, community-led sites and guidance for neighbourhood plan makers around custom homes and self-build.
1 Raise public awareness of the Right to Build in England (and equivalent in Scotland, Wales and NI) with a consumer campaign to help more of the 53% of adults who would like to build their own home to fulfill their ambition.
2 Introduce a ‘Help to Build’ equity loan scheme for affordable self build homes to help more people get on the housing ladder and deliver a more diversified supply of new homes.
3 Release more public sector land for the creation of serviced custom and self build plots – including low cost, affordable plots.
4 Incentivise the public sector to develop custom build starter homes to accelerate delivery and extend housing choice. This could be through access to low cost funding.
5 Allow communities to use exception site planning permissions for custom and self-build homes where they are for local people, key workers and others who satisfy a ‘local connection test’.
6 Incentivise landowners to create and sell serviced plots direct to market by equalising the tax status with that for selling land in a single transaction to the volume housebuilders.
7 Introduce tax relief for gifts of land and property for community-led housebuilding.
8 Continue to exempt small scale custom and self-build developments from town hall taxes intended for the big speculative housebuilders – and ensure this is available across the UK.
9 Encourage rural authorities to allow people who meet a local connection test to build an affordable home so they can stay in the area (retained at a discount to market value in perpetuity).
10 Simplify the process for community groups to buy land and get planning permission for homes, including preferential bidder status on the sale of public sector land.