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07/10/2021

Is government’s 10% target for self and custom-build homes realistic?

Setting ambitous targets for custom-built homes could backfire without the structures in place to support a scaling up of the market, argues Chris Hemmings

The government has welcomed the Bacon Review into self-commissioned new homes, suggesting that 30,000-40,000 new homes a year could be self and custom-build. This is a threefold increase on existing levels of self-building and would represent at least 10 per cent of the government’s target of 300,000 homes built a year. 

To boost supply of self and custom-build plots, will the government now set a national target of 10 per cent for all authorities to deliver? A self-commissioned home involves a person organising the design and construction of their own home.

For self-build projects, this involves a person purchasing a single plot and employing an architect and contractor to design and build the house to the individual’s specification.

For custom-build homes, this could take the form of purchasing the land and foundations from a developer to the individual’s specification or purchasing the plot and the shell of the building, through to customising an existing house type in terms of the internal layout, fixtures and fittings, and/or minor changes or upgrades to the exterior.

As most housebuilders are volume-driven and rely on pace of delivery, requiring a set proportion of self and custom-build homes could have a negative impact. For example, with custom-build a volume housebuilder can use its own architects and building contractors to ensure the style is in keeping with the wider scheme and can be delivered on time; with a purchased self-build plot there is less control on what is delivered and when.

“The market perception of a scheme could be affected if self-build plots remain undeveloped”

The market perception of a scheme could be affected if self-build plots remain undeveloped or are not finished to a sufficiently high standard. There would also be a cost implication involved in managing a number of third-party self-build contractors on site.

In time, more SME developers may enter the custom-build market to work with volume housebuilders, while modern methods of construction could also play a role in increasing delivery rates and the range of customisation available. But in the short term greater financial support may be required to deliver a set target; or, in the absence of this support, housebuilders could seek to mitigate any rise in costs through fewer planning obligations, including affordable housing.

Chris Hemmings is associate partner with Carter Jonas

Image credit |Shutterstock

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