October 19, 2016 - No Comments!

We Should Do More Selfie (Builds)

We Should Do More Selfie (Builds)

A quarter of adults under 35 in the UK still live in their childhood bedrooms.

buildhomes-newsFor the ones that don’t do that by choice it’s in large part because we don’t have enough homes in the UK to go round.

We all know we need to build more homes. And lot’s of very clever people are busy trying to solve this problem. But perhaps not enough clever people are thinking about the type of homes that we do actually build. Yes it’s not as important as getting them built in the first place, but if we build a load of buildings that no one would choose to live in, then it’s self defeating.

Steve Hilton (yes him) has done some thinking about this and has this to say on the type of homes we are building

“They are barely homes at all. They are factory houses…31% of homeowners today would not choose a home built in the last ten years; British homes are on average the smallest in Europe. The average new home is only 818 sq feet…Even crowded Japan’s average is 70% larger than in the UK”.

He goes on…

“Even worse the number of bedrooms is used as a key metric when selling houses, developers increasingly take advantage of the fact that by carving additional useless rooms into already existing small spaces. They have no problem charging them for the extra walls. But what use is a child’s ‘bedroom’ without a table for building toys or doing homework, without shelves for books, without room to play?”

This needs some caveats: Steve Hilton is being a bit unfair. Volume housebuilders have a big role to play in solving the housing crisis, because they can and do build lots of homes. They don’t all build rooms that make children sad, and they’d argue that part of the thing with being a volume housebuilder is that you build a load of homes that have mass appeal. Bespoke they aint.

But Hilton has a point. If we could design our own homes they would look different to the ones we live in. But nobody self builds apart from architects who have a penchant for living in caravans in December being filmed by Grand Designs. Nobody does that. Actually they do.

In Austria 80% of people self build, whilst in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Norway and France around 60% of people do. In the UK just 10% of homes are self built. But that doesn’t mean that people in the UK don’t want to build. A YouGov survey commissioned by the Building Societies Association (BSA) and published in October 2011, suggested that 53% of people in the UK would consider building their own home given the opportunity. It should be said that by self build I don’t mean like Noah’s Ark, for most people it means working with a provider to get their home designed to their spec, built the way they want it. Out of the materials they want. Sustainable good looking, cheap ones, like timber.

It would certainly make financial sense for more people to self build. Self build homes cost about 60% of their final value to build. It needn’t even be overly complicated for people. In Nijmegen, residents get a choice of 29 flat pack styles to choose from, each designed by local architects and each can be assembled locally keeping costs down and the money in the local community.

In January 2016 it was estimated in the UK that there were some 4750,000 plots without homes that had the requisite planning permission. It’s hard to imagine that being the case if they were owned by individual families with self build mortgages.

Are self builds the solution to the housing shortage. No. But they’re part of the solution. And one that doesn’t get the air time it should.

Published by: Peter in NEWS

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