Posted by admin on May 1, 2012
Who hasn’t dreamt of building their own house? Of finding that perfect little plot of land, coming up with a design and then seeing it through to completion.
It’s a powerful idea, and it might be part of the solution to Britain’s housing shortfall, which some estimates suggest will reach 750,000 homes by 2025.
Perhaps the answer is for house-hunters to take control of the situation themselves. A report by the National Self Build Association predicts a 141 per cent increase in the number of mortgages available for those building their own homes. Now the Government has backed a package of measures to help would-be home builders to get their grand designs off the ground.
“It’s an idea whose time has come,” says the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps. “At any moment, two million people in Britain are investigating the idea of building their own houses. But too many of these projects are halted before they can get started.”
The product of a joint initiative between the Government and the self-build housing industry, a new interactive website, selfbuildportal.org.uk, contains information on everything from finance to double-glazing. A postcode calculator allows you to work out how much, on average, a self-build will cost in your area.
Pricing is a key point. Television property programmes often feature multi-million-pound fantasy homes, but Shapps is keen to stress that building your own place needn’t be for the wealthy few. “The average cost of a ready-made home is now more than £232,000, but a budget of £150,000 is usually adequate to build a three to four-bedroom house. Fourteen thousand self-build homes were constructed in the UK last year, just one in 10 new homes, a figure which lags behind the rest of Europe.”
Shapps’s aim is to double the size of the UK self-build sector. He has enlisted the support of some of the biggest names in British property, including the “Restoration Man”, George Clarke, the BBC architectural historian Dan Cruickshank and Kevin McCloud.
McCloud knows better than most about Britain’s self-build frustrations. As presenter of Channel 4’s Grand Designs, he has spent more than 13 years helping people to realise their dreams, and to deal with the myriad frustrations they encounter.
“Often people think of self-build as long, difficult and self-sacrificing,” he says. “But with the right planning, help and support it can be an enjoyable process.”
As well as individual self-builders, the portal aims to encourage community projects, where a group takes charge of a local scheme. This means that self-builders can buy a “base unit”, a plot where the foundations are laid and utilities connected.
“What we’ve seen from Grand Designs is that 90 per cent of the hard work is breaking the surface: laying foundations, connecting to utilities, that sort of thing,” McCloud explains. “One solution might be for people to buy a base unit and then put their own designs on top of that. It’s good news for home builders, and also good for the landscape because people will have more architectural input.
“Self-build homes are often more ecologically sound, so it could also be beneficial for the environment.”
One of the controversies around the Government’s new legislation to free up planning laws has been the fear that the countryside will become swamped with low-quality homes.
Restoring ownership, by having a greater number building their own properties, could help ensure that new properties are both attractive and precisely suited to people’s needs.
“It would be great if we could become a nation of self-builders,” adds McCloud. “Like the Dutch, the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Swedish – the list goes on – we have lagged behind so far, but there’s no reason why we can’t catch up.
“Self-build is a dream that can stay with you through your whole life.”
By: Ed Cumming
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