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Housing: Serviced Plots

Volume 794: debated on Wednesday 12 December 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government with what organisations they have been working to ensure provision of serviced plots for self- and custom-built homes in order to meet social and other housing needs.

My Lords, self and custom build can play a crucial role, as part of wider measures, in securing greater housing market diversity and delivering the homes people want. We are working with local authorities in meeting their legislative obligations and with industry, including the National Custom & Self Build Association and the Right to Build Task Force, to ensure provision of serviced plots. The home building fund and the community housing fund support SME builders and community groups including those promoting self and custom build.

Is my noble friend aware that his Answer is enormously encouraging? Nevertheless, it is the situation, is it not, that across most of Europe self-build constitutes a huge proportion of the housing market? Now that we have the opportunity, with the progress that has been made by Her Majesty’s Government on moving towards the target of 300,000 homes, can we really make sure this time, on the basis of the policies my noble friend has just mentioned, that it actually happens and that the thousands of couples who want to build their own home will have the opportunity to do so?

My Lords, I thank my noble friend very much for that support. It is true that this is an important and growing sector. We were perhaps a little late coming to this: the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 gave an injection to this area, but there are more than 30,000 people on the register to which I referred and there is growing interest in this area.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Can the noble Lord tell the House what work the Government are doing to ensure greater access to mortgage finance for those individuals who want to build their own home? Can he also tell the House what role he sees for the co-operative sector in developing self and custom build housing?

My Lords, the noble Lord has put his finger on a difficulty, which is access to the mortgage market. We are well aware of the difficulty and we are working with building societies and with a couple of banks—Virgin Money does good work in this area and the Co-operative is also interested. We are certainly very open to encouraging access to finance via the co-operative movement and the Co-operative Bank. The noble Lord is right that it is an important area and one where we need to focus our attention.

My Lords, we need this alternative stream of new homes because otherwise we are totally reliant on a handful of very large volume housebuilders which consistently let us down in terms of quantity, quality, affordability and design. This is a really important new stream of extra housing, but we are awaiting guidance from the Government for local authorities on their planning obligations. This is a little overdue. Will the Minister tell us when we might expect to see it published?

My Lords, I first thank the noble Lord. He was the noble Lord, as so often, who piloted the very important legislation I referred to through this House. We expect the guidance he is referring to early in the new year.

Will the Minister take the opportunity to visit the “sweat equity” project in Toxteth, Liverpool, an interfaith initiative which was set up originally by Habitat for Humanity? More than 30 properties were built on that site where the sweat, the labour of the people involved in helping to build the properties, included single parents and people who would never have had the opportunity to become homeowners otherwise. They have now got homes in inner-city Liverpool. It is a wonderful initiative and I hope the Minister will take the opportunity to see it.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord very much indeed for the invitation. I am very keen to visit. I am due to go to the north-west for some faith visits, and I will see if I can visit on that occasion.

My Lords, picking up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, will the Minister give consideration to the Government encouraging local authorities to enter the mortgage market again? Back in the 1980s, some 15% of all mortgages nationally were given out through local authorities. That proved a viable and sensible way of encouraging low-income home ownership.

My Lords, we are very keen and willing to look at any area that opens up finance for this sector, so I certainly do not rule that out. We are, as I say, actively pursuing this matter with building societies and with banks, and they are responding, but I will take the noble Lord’s suggestion back, if I may.

My Lords, what advice would the Minister give to someone threatened with eviction from their home just off Whitehall?