NaCSBA representatives met with the Secretary of State for Homes, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, earlier this month to highlight the Custom and Self Build sector’s current priorities and feed in its responses into key consultations.
Following up from NaCSBA’s last meeting with Sajid Javid in November 2017, Richard Bacon MP Chair of the APPG for Self Build, Michael Holmes, Chair of NaCSBA and Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, Chair of RTB Policy Commission, put forward three requests for Government support.
The meeting was also attended by Mario Wolf, Director of the RTB Task Force, who updated the Government on progress the Task Force were making in supporting the implementation of the Right to Build.
NaCSBA believes that these measures will, together, help the sector contribute up to 25,000 additional new homes per year from 2019, helping the Government achieve its target of 300,000 new homes per year.
1) Extend Help to Buy so homebuyers with at least a 5% deposit can access an individually designed Custom or Self Build home
With 20,000 single new dwelling permissions granted across the UK in 2017, there are many new serviced plot schemes coming forward on a regular basis. In England this is being facilitated by the Right to Build legislation.
Key to ensuring that these opportunities are taken up and built out will be access to affordable finance.
Consequently, NaCSBA is working with key stakeholders in the sector to formulate a proposal for a loan scheme, including stage payment mortgage lenders, the Bank of England Prudential Regulation Authority, HM Treasury, Homes England and MHCLG.
This will help make an individually designed home an affordable option for those with a deposit of at least 5%. NaCSBA will deliver its proposals for review by Government by June 2018.
Research among lenders indicates that extending Help to Buy to Custom and Self Build homes could help an additional 10,000 people a year achieve their ambition to own an individually designed home.
2) Right to Build Consumer Awareness Campaign
Sajid Javid and Government remain supportive of a consumer campaign and acknowledged that sector growth would increase housing supply diversity and support the SME and off-site sectors, both of which Government identifies as key growth areas to support their housing targets.
NaCSBA highlighted the disparity between levels of demand for Custom and Self Build indicated by independent market research work, relative to the evidence of demand on local council’s Right to Build registers to date.
NaCSBA’s Freedom of Information request of November 2017 indicates 33,000 individuals had signed up to Council registers by October 31st 2017. However, NaCSBA highlighted that awareness, even amongst those looking for a building plot, remains very low and that many local authorities are doing little or nothing to publicise their register, with some still failing even to implement a register that is compliant with the Regulations.
NaCSBA had given careful consideration to the Secretary of State’s concerns that a Right to Build consumer campaign needs to be timed carefully with a tangible offer backed up by a sector ready to deliver sufficient serviced plots and bespoke homes to meet demand.
NaCSBA proposed that a campaign would have a far more viable offer if linked to the launch of an equity loan scheme to create affordable access to a Custom and Self Build home for those with at least a 5% deposit and that any campaign should therefore be timed accordingly.
The outcome is that NaCSBA has been invited to submit proposals for a consumer awareness campaign, with a timescale of early 2019 earmarked as a possible launch date. This would coincide with the airing of Channel 4’s My Grand Design series following the first ten projects at Graven Hill Village in Bicester, Oxfordshire.
The call to action would be to visit NaCSBA’s Right to Build Portal where details of all available sites across the UK would be available to search, together with details of Custom build providers operating there and the equity loan scheme, with the backup of access to Council Register’s for those who want to register their interest.
NaCSBA believes that a consumer awareness campaign would drive numbers on Council’s Right to Build Registers and that this evidence of demand will result in a significant increase in the number of serviced plots available.
3) Revisions to National Planning Policy Framework and guidance
NaCSBA also sounded out Javid on the potential for the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and related practice guidance to be strengthened with regard to the Custom and Self Build housing to deliver the Government’s Housing White Paper objective.
Affordable Custom and Self Build Homes
NaCSBA indicated that its response to the NPPF draft revision will include suggested recognition of the role that Custom and Self Build (CSB) can have in delivering genuinely affordable homes. This will allow Local Planning Authorities to meet their duties under the Right to Build without conflicting with objectives for affordable housing delivery.
NaCSBA’s intention is to incentivise delivery of affordable housing allocations on larger sites brought forward via Custom and Self Build. It will also encourage Housing Associations to offer affordable CSB homes across all tenures, including CSB starter homes and shared ownership, as well as increasing choice and diversity.
Recognition within Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) of some forms of CSB as affordable housing is important. This will prevent group schemes, including community-led housing, from failing to be viable due to the imposition of affordable housing requirements where the scheme is already meeting local policy requirements through the provision of discounted market housing.
This might be from schemes such as starter homes, or shared ownership through a community land trust or other parallel structure.
It was also highlighted that Self Builders need to make an equity saving on land acquisition to make housing more affordable, and that this requirement for ‘land value capture’ should be taken into account when assessing viability and the application of developer contributions.
This guidance is seen as vital in areas where the small sites exemption from s106 introduced by the Written Ministerial Statement is not given weight relative to the affordable housing policy, or on sites over the threshold of ten units (five units in rural areas).
NaCSBA indicated that this could deliver up to 5,000 additional genuinely affordable new homes per year.
Exception Site Policy
NaCSBA indicated that it will include in its response to the NPPF review proposals for the introduction of an exception site policy for Custom and Self Build homes to assist local authorities in meeting their duties under the Right to Build.
This would mean that windfall sites in predominantly rural areas within or in close proximity to existing settlements but outside of development boundaries would not treated as ‘Isolated New Homes In The Open Country’.
Instead, they would be recognised as being sustainable development with a presumption in favour of approval, subject to all other policies on development control.
NaCSBA’s intention is that such windfall sites would no longer be refused for their failure to meet the definition of sustainable development on the grounds that sustainable modes of transport are not available.
NaCSBA also identifies that the Custom and Self Build registers could support such a policy where local authorities wish to prioritise the local community, by applying a local connection test already provisioned with the Right to Build regulations.
Using the policy to meet genuine identified local housing need in this way would also reduce travelling, which is the principal justification for treating such sites as unsustainable under the NPPF currently, on the grounds of over-reliance on cars.
Whilst the current rural exception site policy can be used to enable Custom and Self Build housing, in practice it is rarely used for this purpose and many Local Planning Authorities are unsure about how such an approach would work in practice. Consequently, very few sites come forward.
NaCSBA also highlighted the potential to increase the number of affordable rural homes through giving recognition in Planning Practice Guidance of the single Self Build exception sites scheme operated successfully for several years in Shropshire. This uses a s106 occupancy restriction to ensure the property remains available at discounted market value in perpetuity.
A CSB Exception Site Policy will deliver up to an additional 10,000 new homes per year, reports NaCSBA.
These initiatives will be further detailed and included in NaCSBA’s official response to the draft revised NPPF consultation in May.
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