Community levy should not apply to self-builders, says housing minister
HCA to trial self-build with five pilots and £30m fund
The Homes and Communities Agency is set to release a series of pilot land parcels for self-build projects as part of a government push on the low-cost development model.
Ministers hope to encourage self-builders to develop a quarter of a million homes over the next decade. In a scheme being developed with the Communities and Local Government department, the HCA is expected to hand over five small sites with a total capacity of around 80 homes to trial self-build developments.
During a trade visit to Almere in Holland on Monday, where the local authority has launched the biggest self-build project in Europe with 3,000 homes planned, housing minister Grant Shapps also said he would seek an exemption to the community infrastructure levy to encourage more self-builders.
‘We do not want to see the CIL levied on properties that are self-built,’ Mr Shapps said. ‘It is counter-productive to everything we have been doing to try to promote the self-build industry.’
The CIL is a charge that can be levied by councils on new developments of any size. It has recently been criticised by developers who have said
it will limit the money available to provide affordable housing.
A CLG spokesperson said: ‘Ministers are actively considering ways to help as many people as possible realise their self-build ambitions, and this includes reviewing financial arrangements such as the community infrastructure levy.’
Mr Shapps was joined on the trip by architect and developer Kevin McCloud, HCA chief executive Pat Ritchie and CLG officials - as well as Inside Housing.
Last year, fewer than 14,000 homes were self-built in the UK. Mr Shapps wants to see an additional 100,000 self-build homes developed over the next 10 years, over and above current levels. Self-build housing involves communities or individuals building - or contributing to the building of - homes on plots where the main supporting infrastructure is already in place.
The Almere visit came after the announcement of a £30 million fund to promote self-build. The fund will be in the form of a revolving short-term loan facility to be made available to councils and other housing providers and which will be recycled once it is repaid. Details of the terms under which loans will be offered as well as the five pilot projects are due to be announced shortly.
A number of landlords present on the trip have already expressed interest in bidding for part of the funding.
Cherwell Council in Oxfordshire has plans in place to develop 250 self-build homes, with a mixture of outright sale, affordable rent and shared ownership units. It will do this either through its own community land trust or a partner housing association.
Helen Town, strategic housing officer at Cherwell and lead officer for its ‘Build’ programme, said the funding would help the council deliver projects more quickly.
‘It would enable us to have more schemes onsite at the same time,’ she said. ‘This is a great way to get more people involved in homeownership but it is challenging, especially cash flow.’
Around half the Cherwell homes would be for affordable rent, with tenants’ agreements including a commitment that would see them actively involved in fitting out their homes.
Plus Dane is working on two small-scale schemes in Liverpool, including one in the south of the city using HCA-owned land.
Claire Griffiths, managing director of regeneration at the 12,500-landlord, said it would be bidding for funding for the projects. ‘One thing that we are really trying to impress on the HCA is that we need more flexibility to deliver these ideas, and that needs to come from this fund as well.’
Gary Fulford, chief executive of 19,000-home Walsall Housing Group, said he would consider bidding for the funding but warned co-operation from councils over easing planning restrictions would be needed to develop large self-build programmes.
‘To do something on a large scale we would need to get the right conditions from a local authority,’ he said. ‘They would need to think about planning in a very different way.’
Mr Fulford added that WHG was considering self-build on ‘a number of sites’, all of which would be using its own land.
Self-build: how it works
- Land is provided by local authority, housing association or other public body
- Under outright sale or shared ownership arrangements, buyers will fund the building of the home on a plot where main external infrastructure is in place, complying to agreed design codes
- Under an affordable rent model put forward by Cherwell Council, tenants can be involved in self-build by agreeing to ‘self-finish’ homes in return for reduced rents