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Lewisham Council way back in the 1980’s ran a scheme which encouraged and supported local constituents to build their own properties in Honor Oak, South London.

The scheme saw people earn shares in the property in return for their labour.

The UK properties were simple in there design but esthetically  pleasing all the same, these UK properties are now mostly in private hands, as many were bought through the governments right-to-buy-scheme, with some of the properties demanding as much as 800,000 GBP in todays housing market.

There are now plans for a similar housing scheme in the same area, with a proposed 33 home UK property development.

Currently in the United Kingdom only 10% of UK properties are self-built.

With housing shortages at all- time highs are we about to see this change, and could it be the answer to our affordable housing problem.

The Church Grove project in Lewisham is being pioneered by the Rural-Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS), it is an ambitious, partially self-built, mixed-tenure, community-led development that will provide homes for 150 people.

Any residents taking part with be given a 20% stake in the property, these properties will either be council properties or shared ownership UK properties.

In April 2016, RUSS signed a land agreement with the council for a peppercorn rent. Alex Madewell, 32, was one of those selected for a three-bed shared ownership home at Church Grove. ‘This is the only way we can afford to stay in London – my partner is from Lewisham, and we really want to stay around here,’ says Alex. ‘We’re going for the maximum share of self-building.’

After a prolonged participatory design process – ‘We wanted to have residents involved from the very beginning,’ says Kareem – RUSS is set to submit the planning application in the coming months.

The RUSS want the properties to remain affordable so will keep a 20% share in the homes to make sure this happens.

‘The enabling works, ground works, foundations and ground floor level platform will be constructed by a contractor,’ says Kareem. After that contractors will work on the project together with self-builders, ‘working in teams doing jobs in batches across the site’. Self-builders will sign contractual agreements with RUSS to deliver costed packages of work.

Some of the UK property development will be funded by grants, other funds will be raised by finance loans, with the development expected to cost a daunting 6.2 million GBP this is no mean feat, with £1 million worth of self-build labour – they still have to raise the remainder of the £840,000 pre-development costs. This will get them past the design and planning permission stage, allowing them to access the larger loans and start on site.

Kareem says that the cost of finance and access to land are the main obstacles for groups like RUSS in providing affordable housing – and one of the reasons why offering rental options is difficult. While they have got the land cheaply from the council, this is largely because the site itself is in a flood risk area and needs de-contamination, and wouldn’t have been attractive to other developers.

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