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Press release

25 FEB 2019

Legislative proposal for assisting self- and custom-builders in Scotland

Hew Edgar RICS

Hew Edgar

Interim Head of UK Policy

Edinburgh, UK


The Scottish property market faces a ten-year backlog, needing 80,000 new homes to bolster an industry damaged by a current undersupply of new homes and subsequent house price inflation. RICS has written to the Scottish Parliament Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning - Kevin Stewart MSP – and parliamentary housing spokespeople to ask them to prioritise alternative solutions to housing development aimed at supporting self- and custom-build.

The reasons for the current undersupply are numerous, but we have long called for Government to explore other avenues for housing development to widen house building participation, across all tenures, to meet demand.

Something old, something new

Making meaningful inroads to tackling the housing crisis cannot be done through intensifying the current "business as usual" approach. For Scotland to make serious headway into building the quantum of homes required to meet demand, there needs to be innovation in Government policy and parliamentary legislation.

The Scottish Government's flagship housing measure is undoubtably the £3bn investment in 50,000 affordable homes. Whilst commendable, bold, and somewhat unique, it is not producing the required numbers to tackle the supply crisis and backlog adequately. As such, a new approach, with new measures is required. RICS hope these measures can be introduced through original policy and legislation; or emulating existing legislation in other jurisdictions.

Something borrowed

Two recent English Acts have greatly assisted those wishing to self- and custom-build their homes: The Self-Build and Custom House Building Act 2015, which was amended and enhanced by the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

The principles and intentions of these Acts are to increase the opportunity of custom and self-build through the establishment of Local Authority held registers of individuals, or groups, with an interest in self or custom-building projects. The Local Authority then has an obligation to find plots of land for those on the registers.

Similarly, two sections of Part 9 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 require local authorities to provide allotments to those with a registered interest. There is no reason why these sections cannot be imitated, with "allotment" being replaced by "self or custom-built home", or words to that affect

Emulating any of these pre-existing Acts, and providing financial assistance and advice, could open up another avenue for housing development, whilst not hindering or replacing existing forms of supply

Something due

The UK is far behind its European and American counterparts when it comes to self- and custom-build developments. In the US, 45% of new housing is self or custom built, with the European average around 50%. The estimate for self and custom-built homes in the UK lies between 7% and 10%.

Despite this low contribution from self- and custom-build to the UK housing market, demand in the UK is increasing. Ipsos Mori reported in 2016 that one in eight Britons expected to research or plan how to build a home for themselves over the following 12 months.

The National Custom & Self Build Association (NaCSBA) believe 40,000 have signed-up to a council Right to Build register since April 2016.

Self-build and custom build homes do not replace other forms of housing supply and construction, they provide an additional avenue of increasing housing supply.

Marrying the options

Given the growing interest in self- and custom-build, there is a need to consider the introduction of such measures.

The Self Build and Custom House Building Act 2015 was presented and carried through the UK parliament by Richard Bacon MP – not from Government.

Whilst we have written to the Housing Minister in Scotland, there potential for non-Government parties, or an individual MSP, to generate legislation and table it in the chamber.

We would urge all MSPs with an interest in housing, place making, energy efficiency, or community empowerment to consider the demand for self- and custom-build, along with the many benefits of these projects, against the relative ease of establishing a Bill. Whilst we will not force our own conclusions upon them, the merits far outweigh the near-non-existent drawbacks.

Hew Edgar RICS

Hew Edgar

Interim Head of UK Policy

Edinburgh, UK


Hew leads the team driving policy development across RICS’ sectoral remit. This involves setting team strategy for the UK policy papers and positions that demonstrate and promote RICS’ thought leadership. He also works in partnership with RICS professionals and stakeholders to take forward engagement programmes with government and parliaments.

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