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Places for People and the University of Cambridge launch new report into self and custom build homes

– 3 min read

Places for People, working in collaboration with the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Housing and Planning Research, has released a new report into self and custom build.  

The Self-build and Custom Housebuilding in the UK report makes key recommendations for the growth of the sector, with a focus on improving access to finance for self-build projects, improving diversity and opening custom build up to younger people and families, and recommending that local planning authorities should strive to increase the number of sites designated specifically for self and custom build. 

The report also calls on Government support to nurture a ‘self-build’ culture in the UK.  

Benefits of self-build

The findings were debated at a roundtable hosted by Places for People. It was attended by a broad range of representatives including those from government and the construction industry, each of whom has an interest in the growth of the self-build sector; key speakers on the day included Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, CEO, National Custom and Self-build Association, Peter Connolly – Chief Executive at Igloo – David Cowans from Places for People and Dr Gemma Burgess, Director of the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research. 

The roundtable gave David Cowans and Dr Gemma Burgess the opportunity to outline the aim of the research with Dr Burgess explaining: “For more than a decade, successive governments have been unable to meet their housing supply targets, and in this report, we have explored the role of custom and self-build in addressing this. 

“Our research identifies the benefits of self-build housing, including giving people agency and control in the design and building of their homes; allowing them to manage the cost, quality and environmental footprint of their homes and the fostering of a strong sense of community that accompanies group self-build.” 

Important  research 

David Cowans added: This is an important piece of research and one which we hope will guide the industry, helping peers make evidence-based recommendations as we nurture the UK self and custom build market.” 

One of the main findings within the report is that the self-build sector is dominated by older generations. With better access to capital, this demographic self-build more homes than other age groups, resulting in single, detached dwellings.  

The 70-page report comes just months after a similar research piece by Rt Hon Richard Bacon MP – a report which the DLUHC will soon publish its response to.   

While speakers accepted evidence of a slowly growing trend in the UK, Dr Burgess noted how the country lags behind European counterparts. The report suggests that this is a result of a more permissive approach to planning, coupled with plot availability; Gemma added: “European countries benefit from established culture of self-building – something we must learn from as we move forward here. Developing such a culture is both a function of time, deliberate policies and sustained actions from national and local governments and the wider industry – and something we absolutely can replicate here with government support – both centrally and at a local authority level.  

Increase and diversify new housing supply

“Wider promotion of self-build, easier access to authoritative information to guide potential self-builders and custom housebuilders, support for access to finance, and greater supply by the construction industry of packaged solutions of professional services, could help to develop a greater culture of self-build in the UK. The clear evidence of demand for and aspirations towards self-build and custom housebuilding are an opportunity to both increase and diversify new housing supply.” 

The report is the third in a series of research that Places for People is undertaking with Cambridge, the next of which will focus on achieving net zero. Reflecting on their collaborations, David Cowans concluded: “I am proud to have extended our relationship with Dr Burgess and her team as we extend our suite of reports. It is important that we continue to collaborate as we strive to deliver diverse, high-quality homes that are accessible to all.” 

The full report is available here.

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