Council announces competition for local families to build their own home

Deputy Mayor Cllr Rebecca Rennison, cabinet member for finance and housing needs. Photograph: Hackney Council

The Town Hall has laid down a challenge to locals to build their own home on council land.

To be eligible to undertake the Self-Build Challenge, bidders for the scheme must be connected to Hackney either through living, working or studying here, not already own a home, and have a total household income of under £90,000.

The council is welcoming applications for “innovative and environmentally-friendly” home designs on plots of land too small for council developments, with the aim of giving families priced out of the housing market a different route onto the ladder.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Rebecca Rennison, cabinet member for finance, housing needs and supply, said: “The Self-Build Challenge is an example of how the council continues to explore all options to address the chronic housing shortage we now face.

“It will encourage innovation and sustainability and make use of land that is currently boarded up and abandoned, for much needed housing.

“We’re committed to encouraging cooperative and self-build ideas in order to support the delivery of a mix of housing that meets the needs of Hackney residents and the Self-Build Challenge will create an opportunity for more families to have a secure home in the borough.”

The pilot programme, with the first site for the challenge on land near 35 Balcorne Street, E9 7BD, is designed to help secure external finance for the build for applicants, while ensuring that when the occupants move on, the property remains affordable, with the council retaining a stake in the home, thus providing intermediate housing on plots of land which would otherwise be disused.

Input from the self-builder could range from contracting out the work to an architect or company, to doing the actual building work themselves, with over 250 people understood to be on the Town Hall’s Self Building Register at present.

The scheme is one way the council is attempting to address the housing crisis, with house-building at its lowest peacetime rate nationally since the 1920s, 13,000 households on the waiting list for social housing in Hackney and 3,000 households in temporary accommodation.

A council report on the scheme recognises that one of the challenges in bringing it forward is residents being at a disadvantage over how to go about building a home when compared to developers or housing professionals due to a lack of information about the process.

It is understood that the Town Hall is putting together information for residents “from all backgrounds” to give them a chance of success in applying, along with advice on funding, development and planning.

In a report on the scheme, Town Hall finance mandarin Ian Williams said: “Any ambition for a household to build their own property has to understand the complexities, risks and costs involved. This will need to be assessed as part of the bidding and vetting assessment.

“One of the biggest challenges is how the applicant finances the development alongside paying for their own accommodation. Typically, self-build works for people that own their own home and can borrow against it. However, this scheme is targeted at residents in need of affordable housing.

“To reduce financial barriers, the scheme proposes to allow successful applicants to borrow against a proportion of the land value. This creates some
financial risk to the council. However, this is no greater than if we were developing it ourselves.

“It will be challenging to deliver a self-build scheme targeted at affordable housing, but support has been put in place to improve the affordability and help deliver this as an intermediate housing product.”

Applications will open in September, but applicants can register their interest now at