‘We want self build to be an option for more people,’ Hannah Blythyn talks about new scheme in Wales

We talk to Hannah Blythyn, deputy minister for housing and local government in Wales, about the pioneering self build scheme
by Charley Ward
4th March 2019

Last month the Welsh Government announced self builders in Wales will be given greater opportunities to build their own homes thanks to a scheme in partnership with the Development Bank of Wales.

The £210m self build fund programme aims to make self build more affordable for residents by providing loans to access land as well as fast-track routes to planning.

Councils and housing associations are to release a series of serviced plots – land permissioned and ready for development – as part of this scheme.

The Development Bank of Wales will offer loans on the pre-agreed plots which will be repayment free until the new home is mortgaged. This will allow people to buy land and cover costs of living while their project takes place.

This month we talk to Hannah Blythyn, deputy minister for housing and local government in Wales, about the pioneering self build scheme that will be launched later this year.

What does this new scheme entail?

We are due to launch a new initiative in just a few months with the aim of making self build an option for more people in Wales.

This project is innovative because it seeks to address the key barriers that people face, like finding a site, gaining planning permission and financing.

Councils will make serviced plots available to purchase, with funding for construction and the land itself provided by the Development Bank of Wales.

We’re releasing £40m as an initial investment and are going to be working with local authorities to find land. When we have identified appropriate sites, perhaps brownfield land,  we will prepare them so they are ready to build on, with planning permission in place for a property you can choose from a selection of pre-approved designs.

Applicants will not be able to rent or sell the finished home for a minimum of five years from the completion date and it must be their only residence.

Initial conversations with councils suggest that they’re really keen to be involved. We all want to open up this market further and make the dream of self building a reality for more people in Wales.

How much will a plot cost and how can people access funding?

Prices are dependent on the land’s value and the cost associated with getting that site ready for self build. This will vary depending on the local authority and on where the plots are.

In terms of the funding, applicants will initially have to demonstrate that they can provide 25% of the price of the plot as a deposit.

You will be able to apply for up to five sites, but if you are successful, you will only be offered one. When you have been accepted, you will then be eligible to borrow the other 75% of the value of the land and 100% of the build cost from the Development Bank of Wales.

Loans will be payable to the appointed builder in stages following an ongoing evaluation of the progress of the project. Interest and fees will only be charged on the loan payments made at each stage.

The maximum term is two years and you only have to start making repayments once the property has been completed and mortgaged.

Read more: Self Build Mortgages Explained

How will self builders hear about these plots?

Each site we identify will come with a plot passport comprising all the information you should need. It will include things like the cost of the land, the required deposit, the location, size and where the proposed build can be situated within the boundaries. It will also cover all of the relevant designs that have been approved for construction.

Interested parties will be able to see all of the plots that are ready for applications on an interactive map of Wales online. This tool will also contain information about the sites that are being prepared for the scheme and you will be able to register to receive notifications
to let you know when they are ready.

What level of design choice will be available?

We have put together a pattern book featuring all of our approved drawings. This will provide estimated build costs to standard fit and finish and additional information about the application process and any deadlines.

There are many different types of house to choose from, including accessible homes, those suitable for older people, adapted homes for individuals who need more support and more highly efficient properties. This will enable the local authorities to use the scheme to meet potential housing need in individual areas.

However, if you would rather not choose one of these designs and wanted to employ an architect to design a bespoke property, or if you have the skillset to be able to do that yourself, that’s also an option on the table.

The local authority would just have to be satisfied that the new proposal meets the planning requirements of the plot. It might mean having to have a further discussion, but the idea of the scheme is to be flexible and open to as many people as possible. In addition, all of the homes in the pattern book will be customisable.

Who is this scheme for?

The key thing is that it’s not aimed at any specific demographic or person. It has been created to open up the dream of being able to self build and own a home to more people. The scheme is for anyone who aspires to become a homeowner and meets the financial criteria needed to ensure it’s affordable for them.

At the moment, most independent construction projects tend to be undertaken by those who have the resources to do so – ie they are reasonably well off. This is an opportunity to broaden the appeal of self build and make it more realisable for more people. The plots will be as fully prepared as possible and available to everyone – not just first-time property buyers.

Do you think we will start to see more of these ventures throughout the UK?

Yes. This is the first initiative of its scale, so we’re really excited about it and the potential it could have here in Wales. We also want to work with registered social landlords on this project and they are very keen, too.

We hope it will provide a fantastic example of how to undertake a house building project, so it will be good in the future for others to look back on and see how it has gone.

For more info visit beta.gov.wales/self-build-wales

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