NaCSBA’s Right To Build Task Force Ambassador Richard Bacon was reported in the Times Educational Supplement last month asking whether the Right To Build could be used by local authorities as a means to create key-worker homes to attract teachers to areas that struggle with recruitment and retention.
Writing in reference to the crisis in housing for teachers specifically, journalist Samuel Horti spoke to Bacon about the opportunities in custom and self-build. Bacon had originally suggested the idea to then Education Secretary Justine Greening.
Essentially, Bacon suggests that local authorities struggling to attract staff in difficult-to-fill subjects or remote areas could use the Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 as a potential solution to this issue.
Because the legislation allows “associations of individuals” to sign up to the Right To Build Registers, there’s nothing to stop a group of head teachers, governors or academy trustees from working together and asking their local authority to support them to bring on housing.
Using a model such as custom build would mean that the teachers wouldn’t have to actually build the homes, but they could have input into the design and layout of the homes.
In fact, Bacon pointed out that the associations could effectively be the builder, or commissioners of the house.
This is a model that’s worked well in Berlin, where an architect will source a group of people and work with the local authority to bring on the homes.
However, Horti raised industry concerns about the demands on teachers’ time that do not make them the easiest key-worker group with which to innovate with.
Equally, funding such a project raised issues, although the £5 billion Home Building Fund does have previous experience of lending to community projects.
NaCSBA chair Michael Holmes commented, that in order to make the scheme work, local authorities would probably need to offer “some form or discount or incentive to make the offer appealing and affordable”.
“This could be through partnering with a financial company for attractive mortgage offers, or through subsidised land, which could be an option for councils with their own land to build upon,” he added.
“But rules may need to be put in place to ensure the system is not abused,” says Holmes. This might be a commitment to work in the local area for a set period of time, he explained.
The comments to this piece in the TES reflect some of the challenges that innovating with custom build face, in that most respondent’s dismissed the idea derisively as they thought they’d have to be laying bricks themselves.
Custom building does require more time than buying a house on the open market, but this doesn’t mean it’s not achievable. But it’s vital that the sector addresses some of these misconceptions.
But despite this, Bacon’s idea does offer scope for housing key-workers, whether they be medical, teachers or emergency services. And I’m sure that before too long some entrepreneurial council will be doing it. Perhaps this route should be used to attract experienced teachers who want to settle, rather than graduates.