Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, has published his Review of Custom and Self Build, which identifies a ‘missing market’ of owner commissioned homes, that could deliver between 30,000 to 40,000 self build homes a year.
The report was commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in April, as part of the Custom and Self Build Action Plan to look at the ways in which custom and self build could help provide the extra homes that government needs to help it reach its target or building 300,000 homes a year.
What’s in the Bacon Review?
Richard Bacon was tasked with looking at the entire sector, including examples of how owner commissioned homes are built abroad in countries where the model is common.
One such example is Germany, where 55% of new homes are commissioned by their owners, with large show parks dotted across the country where you can go and experience houses built and designed by a range of companies (have a look at Musterhaus for a German example).
The result is a comprehensive overview of the sector, together with the barriers to growth. The report is respectable 114 pages and includes new economic analysis by Chamberlain Walker that identifies the sector as a ‘missing market’ in the UK.
This is due to a combination of reasons, such as planning and the dominance of the mainstream housebuilders, but is largely attributed to the lack of land available to build self or custom build homes on.
What are the recommendations?
To remedy the findings, Bacon puts forwards six strong recommendations for creating a new system that would support activity.
- A greater role for Homes England, with the creation of a dedicated Custom and Self Build Housing Delivery Unit tasked with creating more serviced plots, through the provision of more small sites and as part of large sites.
- Raise awareness of self build and show by ‘doing’. This involves the industry showcasing its activity, with the request for government to support the creation of a ‘Show Park’ of owner-commissioned homes that people can buy. In addition, government should support the wider publicity of the Right to Build registers.
- Reignite the Community Housing Fund. This promised to deliver up to 100,000 new homes in England, but was not renewed in the 2020 Spring Budget. Renewing it would enable more communities to build.
- Promote green homes and increased use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Self build champions sustainable and innovative building techniques, and could be an exemplar for mainstream housing.
- Align custom and self build changes with planning reforms – to ensure the changes work with the proposed planning system changes, and by improving the Right to Build legislation.
- Iron out tax issues This is important to make sure there is a level playing field between self built homes and speculatively built homes.
Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “As we build back better, we want to help more people build their own home, making it an option for thousands who’ve not considered it or ruled it out before. This will help get more people on to the housing ladder, ensure homes suit people’s needs whilst providing an important boost to small builders and businesses too.
“I warmly welcome Richard Bacon’s report which matches our ambitions for the custom and self-build sector. We will consider it fully and respond to the recommendations in due course.
“The launch of the Help to Build equity loan scheme will be a game-changer to the self and custom build market and will allow individuals to borrow with lower deposit mortgages which will go towards the design and build of their new home.”
Mr Bacon said: “At no other time in our history would new housing be thought of as a form of pollution, creating a monoculture to be resisted from villages to towns. The central problem is that most customers have almost no clout when it comes to buying a home.
“There is a “missing market”. Instead of customers who are able to choose for themselves what they actually want, which of course will vary hugely – just as people vary hugely in their tastes, preferences and lifestyle choices – in practice most customers have very little say. Indeed, for the very item on which customers spend the largest proportion of their incomes – their homes – they hold the least consumer power.”
“Those who have managed to step outside this prevailing framework and commission or build their own dwelling see a result that is to their own taste – greener, better built and more welcomed by local communities. And while thousands of people have succeeded in doing this – often with the help of NaCSBA members – it is still difficult to do, whereas it needs to become normal. Indeed, it should be no more difficult than ordering a new car.”
“There is a solution. It involves creating the conditions in which customers are treated as if they matter the most, rather than – for the most part – scarcely mattering at all. And this is what happens when people themselves commission the houses they would like to see. Homes England, whose remit includes making markets, has a key role to play in kickstarting this market including providing land and investment and helping to streamline planning – and my core recommendation is that a Custom & Self-Build Delivery Unit should be established with a mandate to deliver the required changes, staffed by skilled professionals with deep experience of delivering custom and self-build projects for customers across all tenures.”
Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA CEO said: “There is clearly something wrong with any market where customer choice is so notably absent, in particularly where such choice so demonstrably leads to better and greener homes. At the heart of the challenge is a planning system that appears hard wired to produce a product that most of us do not want, and which fails to reflect the diversity of our communities.
“Yet there is a proven viable solution. One that works everywhere else in the world, the question is not whether change is needed but how that change happens. To make that change we must ensure that sufficient land comes forward on which people can chose the home they want to live in. We must also open the eyes of the public to the possibilities that are out there. Both these aspects require the leadership of Government to address the failures in our current market.
“The recommendations in this report, which include the review of the Right to Build and the rapid launch of Help to Build have the capacity to positively transform our country’s relationship with the new homes market.
What is the Custom and Self Build Action Plan?
The Self and Custom Build Action Plan includes:
- A Prime Minister-commissioned review of the custom and self build sector, including challenges and opportunities
- A review of the Right to Build legislation to improve how it is applied in practice
- A Self and Custom Build Land Release Fund for local authorities to bring forward plots on land they own
- Funding for the Right to Build Task Force so it can continue to work with English local authorities to advise around delivery and policy
- A Help to Build equity loan scheme.