Head of Property Disputes, Mark Davies, answers some questions on the Self-Build And Custom House Building Act 2015.
Is this Act good for fans of Grand Designs?
Yes. The legislation sounds like a bit of a tongue twister, but the idea is to promote building your own home as a more affordable route to home ownership, and also giving people the opportunity to build high quality bespoken homes. This covers both self-built homes, which are built by the owner, and custom built, where the buyer commissions a builder to build the home.
Traditionally, only a small number of enthusiasts have been attracted by the idea of self-build. The idea is to make this much more widespread. The UK has a much lower rate of self-build homes than other European countries, around 7-10% of new builds. In Austria it is around 80% and in France near 60%. The legislation is central to the government’s aspiration to double the size of the self-build market creating up to 100,000 additional self build homes over the next decade, and boost employment in the construction sector.
What is the significance of relevant authorities being made to keep a register of persons seeking to acquire land to build a home?
Local authorities will be required to keep and maintain a register of people who want to acquire land to build their own homes. Local Authorities would have to take account of the register when developing or carrying out planning policies and/or regeneration schemes, exercising housing functions and or when disposing of land.
The aim is for Local Authorities to build up a picture of demand for self or custom built homes in their area, and ultimately to open the door to the government’s right to build scheme currently under consultation i.e. requiring Local Authorities to offer suitable plots to self/custom buildings. As it stands, the scheme is essentially a stepping stone to improve data on the demand for self build and to ‘wake up’ Councils to the concept of self build.
Who is eligible to put on the register? What are the benefits to the person being on the register?
Primarily, individuals and community groups. As yet, detailed regulations have not been published so the full extent of the categories remains unclear. Applicants will probably need to show a connection with the local area to be eligible e.g. period of residence.
Custom/Self-build homes are also exempt from the Community Infrastructure Levy and the government is looking at a range of planning reforms for self builders, and reducing other costs through changes to Section 106 affordable housing contributions.
At the moment there is no obligation imposed on local authorities to make plots available for self or custom-build homes. The government is currently testing this approach with 11 local authorities as vanguards who are operating the right to build model on a voluntary basis to test the waters for demand. This is intended to be the next step.
How is it envisaged that the register will then be used?
The details have yet to be implemented. However, indications are that applicants will need to provide details about their specific circumstances, type or design of the house, proof of funding and intended occupation plans. Councils will have the right to reject applicants if they are not eligible or fail to meet requirements. Applicants can challenge this. Once implemented ‘self-build’ will not be a free for all and self builders will still need to apply for planning, building regulations etc.
Some Councils have expressed concerns about how this is going to work in practice, and the additional red tape, with obligations being imposed on them to maintain and update the register. Councils have also expressed concerns about the potential cost implications. The government has indicated that it will provide funding.
The idea is to give local authorities an idea of the demand for self-build, which they can then factor into planning and other relevant responsibilities and ultimately for plots, to be made available to persons on the register.
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