Self builders could help Britain's housing crisis

According to Buildstore, over 20,000 homes are being self built each year but there is a pent up demand for at least double this amount. Buildstore says that with improvements and flexibility in planning and the availability of land, self builders are in a position to play a greater part in helping reduce Britain’s housing shortage.

The shortage of building plots and current planning policies are making the situation worse. An application for a single house goes through the same rigorous process as an application for a hundred houses and the statutory period for making the decision is eight weeks. Due to Governmental pressure, local authorities are now more likely to refuse a proposal than seek to negotiate an approval.

Buildstore says that the solution is to simplify the planning process involved in the consideration of small-scale developments, with a decision in principle made in accordance with set criteria. Building Control would be a reasonable model to follow.

Founder and managing director of Buildstore, Raymond Connor says :”Recognition should be given to the importance of maintaining a supply of single building plots in rural and semi-rural areas. It has to be recognised that Government policy guidance requiring high densities is not appropriate in all locations. Small villages can benefit enormously from modest numbers of new dwellings which will help to bring extra life and prosperity to these areas, thereby satisfying the Government’s focus on building sustainable communities.”

Other benefits of self build include :

Self build makes a genuine contribution to the country’s housing stock in providing about 20,000 new dwellings per annum (25% of all new detached houses built in the UK are self built).

The industry makes a significant contribution to replacement of existing sub-standard housing, particularly the replacement of pre-war bungalows.

Self build plots can be created on previously developed small sites in both urban and rural areas including existing garden land – sites which would be deemed uneconomical for developers.

The self build industry acts as a testing ground for the use of new and innovative building materials, techniques and technologies.

Skill shortage is less of a problem for self builders who in addition to using more prefabricated construction methods such as Timber Frame also have access to a wide pool of labour. They also often employ the skills and labour force of small and medium sized builders who operate at a local level, below the scale utilised by the larger house builders.

The self build industry is economically important nationally and has the capacity to expand in terms of value and number of dwellings built both in times of a housing boom and, based on past experience, in a housing recession.