Experts outline possibilities and hurdles to overcome at Right to Build Summit

At the end of last year NaCSBA held its Right to Build summit which saw key figures in the industry share their insights into the current self- and custom-build market.

TV presenter and architect Charlie Luxton told the audience the custom- and self-build sector will play an essential part in remedying the broken housing market. In particular, he highlighted the lack of quality in new builds in a market lacking plurality, as well as the disconnection between generations in home ownership and a lack of engagement with the planning process.

According to Luxton, self-build could be the answer to people not wanting to live in a developer-built home. He said that it “encourages community engagement, boosts local economies and reconnects planning to the people”. He summarised that “self-build creates fantastic housing, built by normal people who value space and community.”

However, construction sector analyst and author of the ‘Self and Custom Build Market Report 2017,’ Brian Green offered statistics that show the existing self-build market currently relies on the wealthier baby boomer generation, with the average self-builder being aged 51 with an income of £50,000-59,000. He explained that the custom- and self-build sector needs to “normalise” in order for it to survive beyond this generation: “It has to find a way to become relevant to the less financially lucrative”.

Former mortgage strategist and NaCSBA finance committee member Andrew Baddeley-Chapell explained how he is working with NaCSBA to develop a new approach to make self-build more affordable. Right to Build is paramount in this, he said, as is reforming the planning process and making land available as the first step in “refreshing the self-build market”.

Mario Wolf, director of the Right to Build Task Force told the audience how the Task Force, set up to assist local authorities with Right to Build and support the Government’s aims of delivering 20,000 custom- and self-built homes by 2020, “wants to do more.” He asserted: “Local authority knowledge of the sector is weak and we need to unpack that to create a willingness to support custom-build,” he said.

He explained how they wanted to take the Task Force’s duties one step further and educate a wider audience. There will be a series of expos running over 12 months, in areas where custom-build has already had an impact on the local housing market. “NaCSBA’s real challenge is that it needs to engage consumers, as currently most people don’t know that the registers and custom-build even exists, nor the opportunities it presents,” he concluded.

NaCSBA is also working with housing and planning consultancy Three Dragons to develop a tool that can prove there is a long- term demand for self- and custom-build. Director Lin Cousins said they “need to estimate the size of the market in different areas, to ensure that the market is ready to satisfy the demand.”

Cousins said that proving the demand will also encourage developers considering custom-build to realise it’s not as risky as they might think. “‘Better informed’ will mean a common evidence base that all partners can work to,” she said.