The Housing White Paper, published today (7 February 2017) recognises the potential for custom build (and self build) to contribute significantly to the Government’s drive for significantly more house building in England. Best of all, it recognises that the overall housing market model is not working effectively to deliver the homes we need, either in terms of quantity or quality.

Measures in the White Paper provide plenty of support to custom builders, and look like attempts to tackle many of the problems that put people off.

Obviously I’m pleased to see so much support for custom build – this is undoubtedly the most supportive Government in decades – but the real delivery of large-scale custom build depends largely on the implementation of these rather broad statements on the ground. Among many local authorities there is a resistance to custom and self build (and housing in general). How will the Government ‘encourage’ them to think again?

The measures to tackle the housing crisis from the developer end are, I suggest, likely to fail to deliver great results. Speeding up the build phase through the greater take-up of off-site methods of construction is, in my view, a red herring. Any student of housing developments from the single plot to the larger estate can see that homes, once started, are built out very quickly, usually ready for occupation in a matter of months. Speeding this up to weeks helps, of course – as does the fact that many of these off-site methods place energy efficiency and build quality as important as speed. But it won’t get more homes built, and it won’t improve design or occupational quality.

A system that relies on a series of sticks (with occasional carrots) to force so-called ‘fat cat developers’ to build homes on the sites they are landbanking only really tackles the symptom, not the underlying cause. Developers will only build out as many homes as they can realistically sell in any area to maintain the market price. Flood the market, and end values fall. No longer can or should we rely on this trickle-down supply approach to housebuilding in this country – after all, looking at other developed countries, it is the exception rather than the rule.

Instead we need to liberate the demand. According to a recent IPSOS/Mori poll, something like four million of us would like to build our own homes, to our own design and requirements. Yet only around 10,000 homes are built by their owners each year – pitifully low compared to everywhere else in the world. If Department for Communities and Local Government could somehow truly liberate this demand, then they bypass two key blocks to the housebuilding dilemma – namely relying on market-led developers, and the natural negativity by local people when they see big developers building estates of homes on the edge of ‘their’ village.

The housing market is indeed broken, but does today’s White Paper truly fix it? This is a concrete set of firm proposals that will make a good start on changing the way we build houses in this country. Implementation is key, but this is a step in the right direction.

  • Rudolf Dullage

    An eloquent article Jason.

    “ Back garden Development” ? It needs an image makeover.

    In most towns and cities we have many gardens (not all) that could, with clever design, accommodate a small home. In sensitive areas i.e. when this would be close to neighbours houses, this could be single storey or grass roofed, and where space is really limited we could build cellars to double the square metres of living space- or even a small house entirely underground with a green roof.

    This would not be compulsory but with sensitive and really good design we could create literally millions of good quality homes, of various sizes and design, exactly where we want them. Each site would have its challenges and this will lead to innovation and investment in high tech construction techniques. (perhaps 3d printing?)

    To put this into both context and perspective, our woeful government currently allow us to build outbuildings on half the curtilage of our property as long as it is used for secondary enjoyment to the main house.

    This means if you want to use it for any type of hobbies or workshop you can do it. (there are certain rules on height etc.,) Oh and you can paint it with bright red and white stripes if you want.

    So, we have a chronic and unfair housing shortage that the Conservatives are obviously not going to solve because they are afraid, as any other NIMBY , that it could effect the value of peoples property

    Ironically, what I am suggesting, would not do that, if done correctly.

    At the moment you can live on a plot with one acre of ground ( I know most people don’t ) but, by way of example, under current Permitted Development you could cover nearly half the garden ( nearly half an acre) with a building 4 metres high to keep your stamp collection in, or house your Koi carp to keep them dry- and not even requiring building regs.

    BUT you can’t build a small well designed house for your son or daughter that can’t get on housing ladder or build it and rent it to a fireman or some overworked nurse who struggles into work everyday..

    The conservatives reversed the status of gardens from Brownfield to Green field in 2010 to keep their conservative friends happy. Prior to that date, for some years, nearly 25% of housing was built on unloved gardens.(usually by developers)

    My vision is not for large houses being crammed into small existing gardens and make the surroundings look awful. I am talking about subservient size houses that can be integrated into the urban landscape.

    We have an abundance of talented Architects in this country, so why not form a specialist government department, headed by some of these Architects and working in a helpful and progressive way, so they could overview design and help normal people design houses that work in their potentially restricted plot.

    The government has the power to do something really good here and they can also easily keep the greenbelt and save us from houses made of “ticky tacky”

    Apart from anything else, it would make us a a nation of self builders, taking responsibility for ourselves- trust me the pent up demand is there. Besides if Mrs May has her way we won;t have enough people to build the “ticky tacky” houses.

    Give back the decisions on what to do with ones property to the people- be brave and the people will surprise us all ( in a good way)- They will will go a long way in solving a crisis that the government are simply incompetent of achieving

    By the way, with an uncertain Brexit outcome, this widespread building will be of enormous assistance to the economy- and that’s apart from spin off benefits such as reducing the need of social care, savings in housing benefit, depression in the young and elderly. UKIP could also stop blaming everything on immigrants- quite appalling that – considering how much they have contributed to the nations wealth.

    The list is long. I wonder if anyone is listening?

    I do not know how to do social media but if anybody agrees with what I am saying would they spread the idea. The country will thank you.

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