Do-it-yourself house-building is to become “mainstream” under a wide-ranging Government strategy to tackle Britain’s housing crisis.
Ministers yesterday promised to slash deposits for first-time buyers to 5 per cent, boost right-to-buy council home discounts and invest £400 million in stalled construction schemes.
The Government’s housing strategy is in response to fears of a “perfect storm”, with construction at its lowest since the Second World War, mortgage lending tightly restricted, and rent and purchase prices stubbornly high.
Nowhere are problems more acute than in the Westcountry. An explosion in house prices in the last decade has driven young people out of the region and jeopardised rural schools, post offices and shops.
The report – Laying The Foundations: A Housing Strategy For England – also commits £30 million to help construct 100,000 “custom build” homes in the next decade.
Communities in the Westcountry are seen as pioneers of rural “self-building”, with villagers in St Minver near Rock, North Cornwall, inspiring the Government.
St Minver residents, who live in the shadow of so-called millionaire’s row in Rock, joined forces to self-build 12 homes at a fraction of their value on the open market.
The report states: “The Government wants to make building your own home a mainstream housing option – an affordable way of building a place people are proud to call home.”
Ministers plan to appoint a self-build Tsar, release state-owned plots for development and make cash available for loans which are not freely available on the high street.
Officials yesterday indicated they wanted self-builders to consider everything from an urban extension of a few hundred homes to a new market town.
While close to 80 per cent of homes in Austria are self-built, the figure is only around 15 per cent in the UK.
The strategy, which brings together a number of previous announcements, was broadly welcomed in the region.
Headline-grabbing announcements included the Government underwriting mortgages for 100,000 first-time buyers purchasing newly-built homes.
Lenders have already signed up to the mortgage indemnity scheme, which will see the average deposit required for first-time buyers drop from £40,000 to £10,000 as deposits fall from 20 per cent to as little as 5 per cent.
The Department for Communities and Local Government said buyers of homes in the South West currently need an average 20 per cent deposit – typically £38,000. For newly built homes this will be reduced to 5 per cent, or an average of £9,500.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said: “The problem that we have is that lenders aren’t lending, builders aren’t building and people can’t get their deposits together.”
Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, who was living at home with his parents when elected last year, welcomed the policies against a backdrop of the average age of a first-time buyer rising to 37.
Mr Gilbert, chairman of all-party parliamentary group on housing, said: “This is an ambitious document which contains much to welcome and should provide some help for those struggling to get a place of their own to live across the market and social sectors.
“There’s clear action to help first-time buyers, bring empty homes back into use, deliver new affordable homes and kick-start housing projects that have stalled, as well as making large tracts of public sector land available for development.”
He added: “Where the Government could have gone further is with the private rented sector. With a move to a more mixed form of housing tenure in the UK then we need to ensure that issues around standards, costs and security of tenure in the private rented sector are properly addressed.”
But Labour branded the action “small beer” and insisted far more was needed to get the economy going again.
Jeremy Cavanna, managing director of Torquay-based housebuilder Cavanna Homes, said: “In the 1930s, substantial investment in housebuilding and infrastructure led Britain out of the Great Depression and, while we all appreciate that Government finances are really pressed, this is a proven solution.”
** Archived November 2011 **
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