We started the project visiting Cherwell District Council in North Oxfordshire who presented several talks introducing the Build! Initiative, setting the background to the area’s housing situation and describing the challenges faced on self-build projects they have managed so far.
Build! Initiative was set up in 2012 by Cherwell District Council to offer an alternative method of providing affordable housing to the local area. Through the initiative, the council have carried out several self-build and self-finish projects in Banbury and Bicester including developing one of Europe’s largest self-build projects, Graven Hill.
The most significant issues that were raised during the meeting were the difficulties in running self-build projects due to a range of regulatory constraints over certification, unskilled self-builders to carry out the work, the time constraints as self-builders required to balance their time between project and running their own jobs and struggling to find contractors who were willing to work with self-builders. From experience, the council found that the more successful self-build projects they carried out involved the Build! Team managing the project for the shell and core works and then bringing in the self-builder later to carry out only the fit-out and FF&E works. The self-builder would receive sweat equity for the work that they contributed and the council would provide a discount, normally £10,000, when selling the house to the self-builders under a shared ownership scheme.
Despite the problems faced, the scheme provided opportunities for the prospective home-owners to learn new skills and more importantly give them a means of accessing the housing ladder. Having listened to the difficulties of managing the self-build projects, it felt pressing to know whether this method proved to be a cost-effective way in providing affordable housing to the local population.
From the meeting, the group found it valuable to learn about the issues around providing affordable housing in the area and the problems faced in self-build projects. The background information provided us with specific context for the project and the merits of using self-build construction as a means of providing affordable housing.
Written by: Byron Chan, MArch Architecture