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How to Start & Manage Your Own Self Build Project

For aspiring homeowners in the UK, community self-build projects are improving their chances of finding a plot and building their own home.

Three government programmes have combined to present self-build as a viable option from both political and social perspectives. Local authorities are now required to evaluate and accommodate the need for self-build in their areas; communities now have power under the Localism Act to grant planning permission for appropriate neighbourhood projects, and the former housing minister initiated actions to raise the number of self-builds throughout the UK.

Community self-build encompasses a wide range of self-build projects completed by a group of people. The ideal group size is between six and fifteen families: fewer numbers would result in higher shared costs.

There are five primary types of community self-build project:

1. The group purchases the land outright using mortgages and individual savings.
2. Group members all buy their own individual plots, with a pre-established consensus on site layout, plot sizes, etc.
3. The group joins a co-operative or housing association that jointly owns the site and properties. Members pay low rent or become part owners through a shared equity arrangement.
4. Members acquire homes in a co-housing arrangement that includes communal facilities such as a children’s park, a laundry or a communal dining area.
5. A landowner or developer makes land available to self-builders and manages the process. The group has autonomy and sets its own rules.

 

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Like-minded families can form groups via a residents’ association or via the Community Self-Build agency or other commercial organisations. These groups will will guide the development and build process.

The Community Build website has a platform enabling self-builders to create a group in their area. They can promote the group and attract new members. New self build groups can often be created after a local resident finds local land that would fit the needs of a group self-build scheme. Once they have found the suitable land they will organising a public meeting to gauge the demand.

Once the group has been put together, formal rules need to be agreed upon, so that everyone is on the same page regarding the financial and legal structure of the project. A spokesperson is appointed and responsibility is assigned. Typical arrangements require everyone to contribute a certain amount of time to the project each week.

When it comes to finding suitable land for the project, the Government’s Community Right to Bid scheme can help groups acquire unused public land. In rural areas, one option is to set up a Community Land Trust, as CLTs are often allowed to build affordable homes in agricultural locations where land is cheaper to acquire.

Financial aid is also available. If at least five homes are being built, self-build groups can be eligible for loans under the Government’s Custom Build Investment Fund. Grants are also available to help groups obtain professional advice during different stages of the project.

Once the design stage is reached, the group should in an ideal world and budget permitting consult with a specialist community build architect to prepare the project brief and advise on the suitability of potential sites. They will also produce a design suitable for people who are new to the build process, minimising the need for skilled resources as much as possible.

From group formation to community design to finishing touches, the self-build project has certain challenges, but the satisfaction of living in a home that you helped construct makes all the effort worthwhile in the end.

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