Is 2018 the year custom build finally takes off ?

19 December, 2017

While self-build or custom build have long been talked about, the concept has struggled to take off, mainly due to the difficulty of obtaining land.

But several new start-ups are set to change all that. One is Land Converter which advertises itself as “specialists in buying and developing unused and awkward spaces in Greater London”. Then there is Common Home, set up by architect RCKa and Native Finance, an FCA-regulated finance platform.

Common Home’s business model is to acquire council-owned sites on a long lease which unlocks development finance from the Mayor’s Housing Innovation Fund. Meanwhile it is pioneering a modular housing system to reduce the build period and cuts costs.

Russell Curtis, director of RCKa says: “The barrier to custom build is land acquisition costs so we have explored ways to address that. By removing land acquisition costs from the equation you are left with no upfront land costs, finance costs or agency fees”.

The first development is a collaboration with Lewisham Council which will grant a 125-year lease on 3 sites in the borough. RCKa is taking forward designs for 35 new homes that it says will be “truly affordable”. The flats will also be larger than other low-cost housing models, for example ones built by Pocket and can be customised by residents.

1-bed 2 person apartments are 56.4sq m and will be priced under £250,000 while 2-bed 4 person bed units are 86 sq. m and will be under £370,000.

Curtis said the idea for Common Home came from an “existential crisis’ in London housing.

“We’ve already lost staff because they can’t afford a place in London and we felt as a practice we couldn’t just sit there and do nothing”.

The plan is to expand the Common Home concept to other parts of the capital and the company is already in talks with Haringey and Croydon councils and Transport for London.

Common Home says if the Lewisham project proves successful it “will have transformed custom-build from a niche product to a widely-accepted model of housing”.