Richard Bacon’s self-build and custom housebuilding bill will become law

Richard Bacon’s Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Bill completed the final stage of its journey through Parliament and will now go for Royal Assent and become law as the Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015.

The House of Lords gave its final approval to Mr Bacon’s Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Bill by agreeing to the Third Reading of the Bill. The Private Member’s Bill was introduced by Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk and founder of the All Party Group on Self-Build, Custom and Community Housebuilding and Place-Making. Mr Bacon secured the support of both the Government and the Official Opposition for the passage of his Bill.

When it becomes law, Mr Bacon’s Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Bill will require each local council to set up a register of individuals and community groups who are interested in obtaining serviced plots of land to build dwellings for those people to occupy as homes, and then to have regard to its register when exercising its functions of planning, housing, regeneration and the disposal of land owned by the council. The Bill will allow for the development of both houses and blocks of flats, both for purchase and for affordable rental.

Last year, Mr Bacon led an All Party Group study visit to Berlin, together with housing experts from across the UK and members of the National and Custom Self-Build Association (NacSBA), to understand more about how individual and community-led housing initiatives – undertaken in co-operation with local authorities – have led to the development of more dwellings of higher quality which meet people’s individual preferences, both for purchase and for affordable rent. Mr Bacon’s legislation aims to secure greater choice for individuals and community groups wishing to undertake similar projects in the UK, and for the self-build and built-to-commission sector to become a more mainstream part of the UK’s housing supply. Mr Bacon commented:

“I am very grateful to Lord Best for guiding my Bill through the House of Lords so skilfully and with such strong cross-party support.”

“Although many people in the UK would like to build their own home or commission a builder to construct exactly what they want, building your own home is still seen a ‘difficult’ option which is the preserve of a small minority who are either extremely affluent or highly eccentric. This is what needs to change.”

“My Bill will help us reach the point where choosing to build your own home – or to have someone build a home for you that fully meets with your personal choices as a customer – is a completely normal and routine part of the housing market.”

“Exercising ‘choice’ shouldn’t just mean selecting the colour of the tiles in the bathroom or the kitchen. It should mean having the power to make real decisions as to what is built in terms of lay-out, design, materials and energy performance. Experience from the Netherlands, Germany and elsewhere shows that such a highly “customer-led” approach results in more dwellings being completed more quickly, which are of higher quality. Listening to customers is a good way to deliver more housing supply.”

“A customer-led approach can also play a powerful role in the delivery of affordable housing for rent for those who cannot afford to buy. In June, the All Party Group on Self Build and Custom Housebuilding undertook a study visit to Berlin, together with housing experts and senior DCLG officials, to examine how a wide variety of affordable housing schemes for rent has been delivered successfully through local community building groups, working in partnership with Berlin’s local authorities. It could also be done here, on a much wider scale than is currently happening.”

“My Bill emphasises the importance of bringing forward “serviced plots” where the difficult parts – getting in the roads, sewers, electricity, gas and water – are already dealt with. It aligns with the announcement in the March 2014 Budget that the government would create a £150 million repayable fund to help develop “serviced plots”. This approach significantly reduces the risk for lenders such as banks and building societies, making it easier for them to commit funds. New modular building techniques and other modern methods of construction can also reduce the risk ‘above ground’, so that the whole proposition becomes a financially viable and mainstream option on the menu. This could become “the new normal”, as it is elsewhere in much of the world. I hope my Bill is the start of that process.”

“The Bill also aligns with the Government’s announced intention to legislate in the next Parliament for a full-blown ‘Right to Build’ – similar to the garden allotment principle for local parishes – on which the Government is currently consulting.”