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13/03/2015

Government pledges £150m custom-build fund

Words: Laura Edgar

Housing minister Brandon Lewis says a new government fund will allow custom-builders to get their projects off the ground more quickly.

This announcement marks the next phase of the £150 million fund, which is now open to bidders.

The fund, said the government, aims to create 10,000 plots of land that has been prepared for house builders. The sites are already connected to utilities such as gas and water, so builders could start work straight away.

Use of a serviced plot, the government added, cuts the average custom-build in half to one year.

Currently, custom-builds contribute 10,000 homes a year, but the government said it would like this figure to double to 20,000 by 2020 and is backing industry-led efforts to achieve it.

The fund is open to community groups as well as small builders as short-term loans to get the land ready for building on. Following this, the land can then be sold as individual plots to people who are looking to build their own homes.

Lewis said: “Custom-build should not be something that’s confined to a small and select group of people – anyone who aspires to build their own home should have the opportunity to do so.

“We want to see the industry grow significantly and this £150 million fund will help further unlock the massive potential it has to help even more people achieve their ambitions. This fund will help create shovel-ready serviced plots so small developers and custom-builders can get on and build, finishing their projects more quickly.”

Lewis added he has given permission to the first three to proceed to the next stage of assessment. If successful, the bidders - three small builders in St Helens, South Norfolk and West Lindsey - will receive a share of £850,000 to help to provide 41 plots of land.

Joe Kilroy, RTPI policy officer, said: "The RTPI welcomes measures that introduce flexibility into the building sector which make it less dependent on a small number of firms. More custom building will make the sector less susceptible to crises and more responsive to demand. The introduction of ‘serviced plots’ is in keeping with a recommendation from our housing policy paper on the front funding of infrastructure on sites. This can then be sold on to developers, while the local luthority keeps the land value uplift to fund the initial costs.

"Of concern is the introduction of an exemption from the Community Infrastructure Levy for people who want to build their own homes. The RTPI is wary of any measure that would result in houses being built in isolation from infrastructure. Solving the housing crisis is not about building a certain number of houses, it is about building places where people want to live, and ensuring infrastructure is delivered alongside housing is crucial to this."

Image courtesy of the DCLG

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