In response to findings from the Letwin Review, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published an analysis of the necessary conditions for, and characteristics of, high-quality new places where people want to live.

The report, Ten Characteristics of Places where People want to Live, lists a series of measures for better building and placemaking, in which Custom, Self-build and community-led housing feature prominently.

Initial findings of the Independent Review of Build Out Rates by Sir Oliver Letwin MP found that a mixed approach to housing would speed up build-out, and to do this local and national government need to facilitate opportunities for growth. The final findings of the report are expected imminently.

“If either the major house builders themselves, or others, were to offer much more housing of varying types, designs and tenures on the large sites that matched appropriately the desires of communities, then the overall absorption rates could be substantially accelerated.” (Letwin Initial Analysis)

The RIBA is in agreement with the initial findings: “The RIBA endorses the Letwin Review approach to increasing quality and supply through better placemaking, with a greater diversity of tenures and types of homes alongside improved planning, delivery and stewardship.”

More homes, done better

Principally, the report is focused on the need for an improvement in the relationship between build out rate and improved design and sustainability in creating places. It puts forward ten points for instigating change, that will empower and engage people in housing, and crucially foster the right environment for delivering “strong, lasting neighbourhoods”.

The ten points include more robust roles for planning teams and local authorities, and clearly identifies, and makes recommendations for, an increase in Custom, Self-build and community-led homes. To do this it also lists ways to bolster the sector, all of which reflects the Letwin Review’s initial findings.

RIBA Places where people want to live

Among other points, it highlights the need for putting the “necessary infrastructure in place to enable increased delivery of self-build homes”, as well as an improved process of land assembly and stewardship that would support the selling and provision of Custom Build plots.

Key in this approach is engagement with SME builders, supported by planning, to “create a more locally attuned market and a more resilient residential sector”.

The report also acknowledges the fundamental link that Self-build, Custom Build and community-led housing has with individual creativity, and the contemporary 3d digital modelling and visualising tools that are helping to normalise this process, as well as the route’s links to affordability.

“Homeowners or community groups who want to take greater responsibility for a building project in exchange for greater affordability – by cutting out the conventional developer – are beginning to come together to buy serviced plots to undertake their own self-build or community-led projects where essential infrastructure has been put in place.”

The report is well-received by NaCSBA, as it supports and advocates the sector as part of an improved route to homes and place-making.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA’s Chief Executive Officer said: “NaCSBA warmly welcomes this report, as we strongly believe that the Custom and Self-build sector can deliver more and better homes, that more people aspire to live in and that communities are happier to see built.

“This report recognises the growth of the Custom and Self-build market, the benefits that this approach brings to homes and communities, and the need to bolster support and refine initiatives. We hope that the upcoming Letwin Review and the Budget will build on this report and help make it easier for individuals and groups to be more empowered when it comes to choosing a new place in which to live.”

The report covers the follow ten target areas for improvement:

  1. The right place for the right housing
  2. A place to start and a place to stay
  3.  A place which fosters a sense of belonging
  4. A place to live in nature
  5. A real place to enjoy and be proud of
  6. A place with a choice of homes
  7. A place with unique and lasting appeal
  8. A place where people feel at home
  9. A sustainable place for future generations
  10. A place where people thrive

The RIBA report is the precursor to a planned Future Place project, a partnership with the Local Government Association (LGA), Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), which will highlight exemplary placemaking practice around the country.

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