07 Feb 2017

Housing White Paper champions custom build and diversification of housing market

Housing White Paper champions custom build and diversification of housing market

The government has published its Housing White Paper, setting out its vision for homes with a host of reforms. It deals with four main points: more land for homes, speed of delivery, diversification in housing and help for those not in the market.

Custom build homes can expect a significant lift having been singled out as part of larger measures to break the dominance the volume builders have on the market. In particular, government pledges to, “support custom-build homes with greater access to land and finance, giving more people more choice over the design of their home”.

The paper cites custom built homes as being built more quickly, and to a higher quality than spec-built new homes. It also states that the sector is far more likely to use modern methods of construction, too, and presents a less risky business model for builders, “as the house has been effectively sold before it has been built”.

In addition, the paper recognises that custom build is perfect for meeting the needs of downsizing older generations – a group that the paper targets as crucial for freeing up more family-sized homes nationally.

Building on its work to overcome barriers to land and finance through the Right to Build legislation and the Home Building Fund, the paper set out the following commitments to bring on the sector.

[Government] will:

  • promote the National Custom and Self Build Association’s Right to Build Portal, so that people seeking to build their own home can easily access the local authority register;
  • ensure the exemption from the Community Infrastructure Levy for self build remains in place while longer term reforms to the system of developer contributions are being explored;
  • support custom build through its Accelerated Construction programme;
  • work with lenders to ensure they have plans in place to increase their lending in line with consumer demand.

In addition, the Housing White Paper confirmed the setting up of a Right to Build Taskforce, and also promised to put pressure on LAs who did not adequately promote opportunities for custom and self building.

It also laid out government’s commitment to retain the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 planning obligations in the short term. It plans to review these properly with an announcement expected in the Autumn Budget 2017.

There are also a host of other key elements, including putting volume builders under pressure to build on permissions, and more quickly too, with local authorities having greater powers to do this. Modern methods of construction are to be encouraged, and SMEs, together with smaller land parcels more suitable to them, are to be brought on through local plans.

Planning in general will become more open and accessible, which will further boost the sector, not least in the fact that Brownfield sites will be assumed to be suitable for housing in most cases, and LAs will be encouraged to support the development of smaller windfall sites.

Editor’s comment

In the introduction to the paper, Homes and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid refers to the paper as presenting “radical, lasting reform”. For the custom build homes industry the paper represents a significant coup – a commitment to the sector that I was hoping to see. This will allow LAs and developers to build on the successes so far, and help the industry reach the next phase.

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