The beginnings of scale for custom build housing

The Government have today (Saturday, 21 August) published the results of the Bacon Review following a commission by the Prime Minister to set out a plan for a major scaling of self-commissioned housing across all tenures in England.

Custom Build Homes (CBH) welcomes the Report by Richard Bacon MP for South Norfolk which has taken several months to prepare. If fully implemented by the Government, it will lead to a significant increase in custom housebuilding – enabling many more people to create and design homes that work for them.

The Report which has been welcomed by Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, focusses on six main recommendations to open up the housing market and offer consumers much more choice in the homes they live in: 

  • A stronger role for Homes England – the Government is asked to create a new Custom and Self-Build Housing Delivery Unit within Homes England to bring forward plots on small and large sites and to support the sector at scale. A range of initiatives are required to deliver this, including direct investment into custom & self-build Enablers, the urgent launch of the new Help to Build Equity Loan for consumers, more funding for councils to release plots, and to work with the ‘Centre of Excellence’ for Modern Methods of Constructions to promote effective custom build housing delivery.
  • A focussed campaign to raise awareness and understanding of the Right to Build legislation – people in England can express their interest to create and design a home with their preferred local authority. It has been recommended that the Government should promote and strengthen the legislation and Self-Build & Custom Housebuilding Registers and create a custom and self-build housing Destination Show Park and Hub with Show Homes.
  • To do more to support community-led housing through targeted funding for Community-led Housing Hubs, specialist housing associations and introducing a Self-Help Housing Programme and a Plot to Rent Scheme.
  • For Government to promote, recognise and support the sector through its work to promote the take up of Modern Methods of Construction and Net Zero Housing ambitions.
  • To maximise access to permissioned land for self-commissioned homes through the Government’s proposed changes to the planning system and change Right to Build legislation so that it better achieves its objectives, including stronger action where local authorities fail to meet their statutory duties and special planning policies which allow unplanned sites to come forward in areas of high demand for plots.
  • To investigate the perceived disadvantages in the tax system between the custom and self-build delivery model and other forms of housing.

The Review, which follows the recent publication of a Government Action Plan setting out what it plans to do support more people to build their own homes, has engaged a wide range of industry experts and other stakeholders, including those from abroad.

CBH had been closely involved in the Review through its Director of Planning & Strategic Engagement and ex-civil servant, Mario Wolf, who has supported Richard Bacon in his review. To assist, CBH was also requested to provided primary research to help better understand the preferences of consumers over where and what type of homes they want to build. This found that many people do not have a strong preference about building a home on a single plot or on a larger housing site. There is also an overwhelming consumer preference for commissioning a bespoke home, built on a serviced plot, from a contractor or builder and buying a customisable home. Top findings were: 46% of people have no preference whether they build on a single plot or whether they build alongside a group of other houses (i.e. a larger housing site) and 47% would prefer to build a bespoke home on a serviced plot with the support of a contractor or builder.

Commenting on the conclusions and recommendations, Mario Wolf, Director of Planning & Strategic Engagement at Custom Build Homes, said:  

“This Report marks a major milestone in the drive to scale-up the custom and self-build housing sector in this country and we welcome its conclusions and recommendations.

“Richard has looked comprehensively at the growth potential of custom and self-build housing as a driver for more and better designed homes and much greater consumer choice. He has concluded there is a significant market ready to be unlocked through a series of targeted actions. We look forward to continuing to work with Richard and the Government to secure the timely implementation of his recommendations.”

The market for custom build housing is growing rapidly and more and more landowners are coming forward with potential sites in response to consumer demand. What is needed is to convert more of these sites into real homes and showcase what this market is capable of delivering, as Bacon recommends.

For example, at CBH we recently launched a pilot custom build community at Trinity Mews, near Durham on public land in partnership with Durham County Council. We have seen high pent up demand and viewings for just nine plots in short time. We are also seeing this demand in other areas, often much higher than what local authorities are showing on their local registers. What landowners are looking for is the support to bring sites forward and more permissive policies where councils fail to meet their statutory duties. Bacon’s recommendations for exception sites and targets to be introduced should therefore be welcomed.

The Review has also identified an urgent need for Government to support greater investment into the sector and it recognises the important role that enablers can play to drive up scale through custom build housing, learning from other markets.

CBH is well positioned to enable a range of landowners to bring forward custom housebuilding at scale. Customisation and modern methods of construction are important market drivers and we know that our customers have strong preferences for these products. They have fewer defects and heating bills can be substantially lower, as buildings are higher quality, greener and built to last.

Bacon’s recommendations and the government’s ambition to delivering greener housing should also be welcomed. CBH data demonstrates that people want bigger homes and give the highest priority to plots and homes which are energy efficient, and which have a garden and garage.

All CBH developments are demand-led. With access to the UK’s leading database of over 100,000 people actively looking for an opportunity to have input into the design of their own home CBH can bring forward sites which accurately respond to local demand and market plots and homes to a ready audience. This data is also proving crucial to support planning applications and appeals.

With our market-leading knowledge of CBH policy and close engagement with Government CBH can also offer expert advice to create customisable developments to multiple different homebuyers at different price points, through optional upgrades, enabling new homebuyers to purchase homes they will love within their budget.

Through its parent company, The BuildStore Group, CBH is also well-placed to support custom projects with specialist mortgages and financial products, including specialist finance for landowners. Bacon has urged the Government to launch the Help to Build Equity Loan, a new mortgage to enable people to custom build a new home with only a 5% mortgage deposit, by September 2021, which should be welcomed and will be supported through the BuildStore Group.

CBH urges anyone who wants to self-commission their own home to sign up to the CBH Custom Build Register as soon as possible so that we can bring more custom build housing opportunities to market and for those who want to develop their land to contact us at