Three year study says self builders in UK struggle to fulfil their dream home

Taylor Scott International News

Even people with the means to build their own home are struggling to do so in the UK in a housing sector dominated by traditional models of construction and ownership. According to a new report from Goldsmiths, University of London, despite the government wanting to encourage more people to build their own home and the huge popularity of the television programme Grand Designs, it is only those with access to certain things that ever end up fulfilling their dream. Dr Michaela Benson of the university's Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, spent three years studying self building as a form of housing provision in the UK and examining the changing context of housing in Britain, from supply through to regulation, and the role this plays in contemporary self build. She conducted numerous interviews with those who have created their own homes, offering a personal, sociological, focus in contrast to most policy or industry led research and found that self build is a housing option only really open to those with social, cultural and economic capital as well as existing skills and knowledge. This is in contrast to the vision of Walter Segal and his self build projects in 1970s Lewisham, which saw men and women from a range of backgrounds come together to learn skills and create new communities, with dwellings that were quickly and cheaply built as well as environmentally friendly. Dr Benson has explored a diverse range of paths into self building, from community focused projects to self builds that weren’t planned but became necessary to families whose former houses had deteriorated to the extent to which the only solution was to knock them down and start again. She also found that while access to financial resources are a necessity in order to become a self-builder, even those with capital find that the housing sector and related industries just aren’t geared towards their needs. Many self builders seek new specialist materials, particularly those that reduce energy consumption for their homes, but have difficulty finding people with the expertise to install them. Self build mortgages are just as hard to procure. It’s apparent that more extensive adaptation of services and products to the needs of self-builders would be valuable if the industry is to be scaled up, Dr Benson argues. She says that the population of self builders can and should be more diverse. 'Although the majority of self build projects result in home ownership, the community self build sector also promotes self build for social or private rent, while some innovative schemes such as LILAC centre on mutual home ownership,' she said. 'These are an important part of the housing landscape that present real opportunities to challenge the system of house buying and tenure as it currently stands. Self building could challenge the dominant modes of housing procurement and a market oriented towards home ownership and profit making,' she added. The report includes a number of recommendations aimed at shaking up the traditional housing sector and making self building a more… Continue reading →

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