Right To Build – Crisis or no crisis, the right to your own home is for many the ultimate asset. The present slump in the housing market shows how dangerous it is to depend entirely on the corporate oligopoly market to create these goods: both affordable and market-sector housing currently face a shortfall. And despite Government rhetoric about design quality, standards of architecture, construction and energy performance have remained woefully low over the past 10 years.

What if we gave people the Right To Build? Publicly owned land assets – whether held by the Homes and Communities Agency or local authorities, and perhaps indeed the cheap assets that the public sector could still snap up from debt-crippled developers – could be devolved to Community Land Trusts (CLTs). Small or large-scale co-design projects could be configured with relatively limited seed-funding and deliver co-procured or actually co-built homes which are personalised and affordable because of the elimination of developer profit, typically 20-25% of development cost. Sweat equity input can be off-set against eventual ‘sale price’ of the home to the end user; this ‘sale’ could occur through memberships in the CLT or on the basis of a normal sharehold mortgage (allowing CLT’s long-term control over land) with a re-sale clause guaranteeing the CLT a share of value uplift.

Public value benefits are considerable. They include increasing delivery of affordable (intermediate) market housing in a stagnant market; increased social capital as future residents initiate a joint process; long-term social investment in place derived from a greater sense of ownership; the unlocking of local housing career chains which can free up existing social housing and shorten waiting lists; increased competition in the housebuilding market which can drive up quality and performance standards; greater control by end users over the housing product creating strong incentives to invest; fostering people’s independence; possibilities to pool labour and other resources to fund projects and for extra construction such as micro enterprise spaces or granny flats to be integrated into the project.

We are currently working with a community based area regeneration body in Sheffield to develop detailed proposals for a business model through a partnership around land ownership and the considerable investment needed in people’s capacities required to make this happen. The Right to Build route map provides a detailed overview of the innovation and collaboration required across social, economic, and built environment models approaches.

The project is supported by the Homes & Communities Agency, Esmee Fairburn & Tudor Trust CLT Fund and the Transform South Yorkshire Delivering Design Quality Programme.

Right to Build video by 00:/ presented at the World Architecture Festival 2009

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