‘Help people build their own homes’

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Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Making it easier for people to get land and build their own home would help ease the housing crisis facing Britain, a Conservative MP has told the Commons.

Richard Bacon, presenting his Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill, drew comparisons with Germany where potential homebuilders can buy land from local authorities.

He said a million people in Britain would be eager to start a project within the next year, adding that seven million would like to do so in the course of their lives.

The South Norfolk MP said changes to the law could make land available – telling MPs that only 1.2% of land currently has housing on it, with all buildings totalling only 10%.

Mr Bacon said Surrey has “more land devoted to golf courses than it does to housing”, insisting that while it was vital to protect countryside, it was not true to say there was no land available.

He said: “I’m an MP representing a very rural area in south Norfolk which has many people, young people, who find it very difficult to get on to the housing ladder or find any place to live when they grow up and leave home.

“The idea of being able to stay in the area where they grow up, let alone the village where they grow up, is sometimes completely outwith the range of possibilities for them.

“The fact is, we don’t have enough housing in our rural area and what has become apparent to me – and would become apparent to anyone taking any notice of the debate across the country – is the problems of housing are also just as acute in many urban areas.

“There are many, many millions of people in this country who would like to get a piece of land and to build their own house. The National Custom and Self Build Association estimates there are around a million people who like to do this in the next 12 months and over seven million people who would like to do it at some point in their lives.

“It would do a great deal, in my view, to fulfil the nation’s housing needs.”

Mr Bacon said the housing market did not work properly and he had been told by industry experts over the course of the year that it had gone from being fragile to facing a bubble in prices.

He told the Commons that rival targets from political parties did nothing to resolve the problem. He said that instead of setting targets, the focus should be on removing the blockages which prevent the system flowing smoothly.

Mr Bacon said it was not possible to put a number on the extra dwellings which might be produced but said this was “missing the main point”.

He told the Commons: “There is an enormous pent-up demand for people who wish to go and get a dwelling of their own and build their own house and it doesn’t have an outlet, the blockages are too severe.

“My Bill seeks to do two things – to create a register containing information on people who wish to get a piece of land and build a dwelling.

“And then to have local councils have some regard to that register when bringing forward housing plans could make quite a significant difference.”

On the availability of land in the UK, Mr Bacon added: “You could double the number of houses in this country, taking up the same amount of land, and we would still have 97.6% of the land in this country which is not houses.

“The built environment as a whole, if you take everything, factories, offices, roads and railways and churches, it’s about 9% maybe 10%.

“The green belt is an unfortunate distraction because of the way it had been created. There are places not in the green belt, including in my constituency, which I would be horrified to see built upon.

“There are places within the green belt that probably shouldn’t be – I think we need to be more intelligent about that. I think personally the instinct of people to wish to preserve beautiful countryside is a very good one and I support it completely.”

Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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