Lord Porter Suggests Self-Building Element To Council Homes

Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) Lord Porter has suggested that the UK should give future residents a chance to design their own council-built homes.

In an interview with the Guardian recently, Lord Porter stated that he wants to “set forth a million builders” in the country. He told the newspaper that it shouldn’t matter what properties look like or how they’re laid out inside as long as they meet building regulations.

He has suggested that between ten and 30 per cent of new council-constructed homes should include elements of self building. In fact, the newspaper pointed out that this is already happening in some instances.

It highlighted a development in south London, where local people were being priced out of buying properties so the council is now working on a scheme for 40 self-build homes, 12 of which are for shared ownership and five of which are council homes.

To make this scheme possible, the council has provided the land at a nominal price, while a contractor will build the shell of the properties and the future owners or residents are being given the chance to design the interior.

A former chairman of the National Custom and Self-Build Association Ted Stevens told the newspaper that allowing people to have a say in how their home is designed means that they stay there for longer and create more of a community.

“When people design their own home they live for 20 to 25 years and become the bedrock of the community. The housing becomes a showpiece rather than a sink estate,” he stated.

He also described Lord Porter’s suggestion as “potentially a game-changer”.

If more councils adopt a similar approach it could mean more timber frame houses are constructed around the UK because they enable customisation.

Writing an opinion piece for the Guardian recently Alastair Parvin explained that Lord Porter’s suggestion is one that highlights the underlying problem with property prices – land values.

He described Lord Porter’s suggestion as “one of the most obvious pieces of common sense that has yet to become housing policy: the recognition that most of what is unaffordable about unaffordable housing is not the house itself, but the land beneath it”.

Mr Parvin goes on to suggest that Lord Porter’s idea should go further, in that councils could lease small building plots to people who want to self-build. He also suggested setting up an online portal to not only facilitate applying for a lease on a plot of land, but also put people in contact with builders, home manufacturers and lenders who can support their project.

“The result wouldn’t just be thousands of genuinely affordable homes, it would also be a huge boost for UK housing innovation,” he stated, adding that it would help produce homes in “places to be proud of”.

And with the government announcing earlier this month that the borrowing cap for social housing placed on local authorities will be lifted at the end of October, there is likely to be greater opportunity for more councils in the UK to construct more properties in the coming year.