Building Lives by Building Homes - Helping People Help Themselves


The CSBA's aim is to help more people, in housing need, to build their own homes. It can put potential self builders in touch with each other, help them link up with local partners and convince others that such projects are worthy of their support.

Our Aims

To make it possible for men and women from all backgrounds to benefit individually and collectively from being a member of a self build housing group. Whilst participating in the planning, design and building of their own homes they acquire a range of skills and experience. The Agency is particularly interested in opening up opportunities for those with limited income or the unemployed to participate.

What is Community Self Build?

Community self build is about a group of local people in housing need, building their own homes and gaining much more besides. As the concept of community self build becomes more widely known, it is more likely that projects will be initiated by potential self builders, rather than other organizations. Some projects have already been initiated by groups of individuals. Those without building skills, participate on the basis that they are prepared to make the necessary time commitment and be prepared to learn new skills.

What is Group Self Build?

This involves a group of individuals coming together and forming themselves into either a self-build housing association or a housing co-op. Where a project incorporates National Vocational Qualification training and the self builders have the status of trainees, a different legal arrangement may be proposed. Together they build the homes and pool their resources. Each individual agrees to contribute the same fixed number of hours per week, for no payment. The building work is usually carried out in the evenings and weekends and amounts to about 25 hours per week; 35 hours during the week where NVQ training is incorporated. For those who are not in work, their contribution is the same. If they are claiming Job Seeker's Allowance, they must still have time to actively seek work.

Community self-build schemes can be either for rent, shared ownership or outright ownership. Outright ownership is possible for those with reasonable incomes and some savings. Shared ownership is more suited to those on lower incomes; self-builders normally purchase an equity stake of 50% and rent is paid on the other 50%. (In exceptional circumstances, a 25% equity stake can be negotiated rather than 50%). In rented schemes, the self builder will pay a reduced rent usually based on the free labour input contributing to a lower build cost. Sometimes a premium tenancy will be offered whereby a lump sum payment is made if the tenancy is vacated.
Community self builders will only in exceptional cases be existing home owners. Most will have moderate to low incomes, which usually makes them dependent on the Local Authority or a Housing Association for rented accommodation. Depending upon the skills of the group, the homes may need to be designed in such a way that skilled workmanship is minimized. Some participants, but by no means all, will have a building background.
Under the Jobseeker's Allowance it is possible to become a self builder, so long as you continue to search for work, attend interviews and do not use the project as an excuse to reject job offers. If you accept a job, then it may be possible for you to renegotiate the time when your self build work is carried out or move into your home without the benefit of the reduced rent.
Under the New Deal, young people's projects will need to fit one of the options set down by the Government. The Value of Community Self Build Projects Participants are normally those for whom there are very few housing options. It gives them an opportunity to take some control over their lives, achieve a home and develop new skills in a practical way. Most of all, it gives everyone a sense of achievement and can open doors when seeking work opportunities. In the North Tyneside Young Persons project, where the majority was unemployed at the start of the project, 75% found work within 4 months of the homes being completed in 1994.
"Building Lives by Building Homes" describes the Agency's work. It was created following the success of the Zenzele self build project in Bristol, where the majority of the self builders were unemployed at the start of the project and all but one had found work by the completion of the project in 1985. A survey was carried out of these same self builders in 1993 and all were still in work. Community self build can transform some people's lives and the aim is to give more people an opportunity to build their own homes and gain much more in the process.

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