NaCSBA – diversifying the UK’s housing supply market

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NaCSBA – diversifying the UK’s housing supply market. A guest blog by Duncan Hayes.

The National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) supports Custom, Self Build and community-led housing by promoting owner-commissioned homes as a viable alternative to the volume housing market.

With over ten years of experience, we work to give more people in the UK the opportunity to have input into the creation of their own home. In no way is this about replacing mass-market housing, but rather, it is a route to additionality that complements the speculative newbuild market, and offers greater choice to the buying public.


To do this, NaCSBA acts as a facilitator to the industry, lobbying government, sharing best practice, informing policy and promoting sector growth. Education is a key tenet of our work, both for the industry to share best practice, and also for consumers, helping them navigate the wide range of models and choices available to them.

Simply put, NaCSBA is working to make Custom and Self Build a mainstream housing choice for anyone seeking a home of their own. In the near term, this means doubling the sector’s contribution to annual home completions, taking it from 8% to 16% by 2020. Key to this is promoting the Right to Build in England by encouraging people to sign up to the Right to Build registers, the legal framework that local authorities use as evidence of demand.


We know that, as of October 2017, there were 33,000 people signed up to the registers for their Right to Build*, but consumer research undertaken by Ipsos Mori and others show clearly that demand is far greater.

So one of NaCSBA’s roles is to help raise awareness of the Right To Build, and to support industry and local government as they work to fulfil this demand.

A core aspect of supporting sector growth is for NaCSBA to collate and communicate best practice to the Self Build and Custom Build sector, and we work with a range of practitioners to do this. This collaborative approach enables local authorities and a range of stakeholders to benefit from the learning curve and experience of others via the Right to Build Toolkit and forum.

While much of our work is industry or policy-focused, NaCSBA works with consumers and end users, supporting them in their journey towards a bespoke, owner/occupier commissioned home and hosts a dedicated website for this, the Self Build Portal.


In our work, we are also closely affiliated with the Right to Build Task Force, which is a NaCSBA initiative.

The Right to Build Task Force supports local authorities, community groups, affordable housing providers, developers and landowners to facilitate more Custom and Self Build homes by providing expert advice, often at a subsidised rate.

A major focus for the Task Force is supporting local authorities as they work to fulfil their duties under the Right to Build, permitting sufficient serviced plots to meet demand on their register.

Based on a successful Dutch model, the Task Force focuses on growing the Custom Build homes sector, bringing on projects at scale and with an emphasis on affordability.

Working together with Wood for Good, NaCSBA hosts a range of Right to Build Expos across the UK to share updates on the progress of the Right to Build Task Force and to provide a forum for ideas.

NaCSBA’s Websites

NaCSBA’s members’ site shares news about policy, lobbying and general sector news with our members, and also the wider professional audience.

The Self Build Portal is a consumer-facing website, sharing news and information about the sector and new sites. It’s the only objective, impartial source of advice for self builders to custom builders. A key campaign site, The Right to Build Portal enables people to sign up to their local – and neighbouring – Right to Build registers by linking to council’s own lists, which can be hard to find in some cases.

The Right to Build Toolkit is Right to Build Task Force’s website, which we also host. This professional-focused site has lots of free-to-access case studies and briefing notes to support councils and planning offices.


In terms of working or getting support from NaCSBA there are plenty of ways get involved. The simplest way is by becoming a member, which automatically puts your company in the ring as a competent operator in the sector. You can find out more about our tiers of membership, here.

As a not-for-profit organisation, our membership fees help fund the wide range of activity that we do, which in turn creates more work opportunities for members.

But there are other ways to support us, as we regularly run campaigns, and are always looking for support and coverage to help get the message across.

For example, we run competitions annually, such as the Self Build on a Shoestring competition looking at affordable homes, and organise events such as Self Build Week, to further understanding of Self and Custom Build.

One of the most crucial campaigns is the promotion of the Right to Build in England, and the drive to get as many people signed up as possible. This is crucial for demonstrating demand for owner-commissioned homes, whatever the route.

One of the main barriers to custom build scaling up is a lack of understanding by the public of the sector and what it can deliver, and unfortunately, this frequently includes professionals, such as planners and councillors.

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Custom Build especially offers a route to the future, whether it is by supporting groups to create homes that reflect their needs or by enabling people to have input into their homes so that they reflect their lives. This could be for senior living, multi-generational groups or to create a home suitable for a live-work scenario.

Custom Build operates on a spectrum, and too few people understand its benefits, such as social equity and instant community. What is more, it has huge scope for applications in our cities through higher-density solutions. The recent Right to Build London Expo focused on this in considerable detail – you can discover some of the learning, here.


NaCSBA is very active behind the scenes on a broader level as well – for example, we are working with planning consultancy Three Dragons on a long-term planning forecasting tool to supplement the relatively short-term record of demand that the Right to Build registers deliver.

We are also working on models to deliver more affordable housing, and liaising with a range of policy makers to promote and grow owner-commissioned homes across the United Kingdom.

In fact, the Custom and Self Build Expo, Glasgow takes place on the 20 June and will showcase the best in innovation and best practice in Scotland, which, like Wales and Northern Ireland, does not have the Right to Build legislation.


As well as supporting local authorities and businesses by sharing experiences, the Expo will also share the learnings of community-led groups, demonstrating a range of routes to alternative housing supply.

The Expos are a key arena for the Right to Build Task Force to showcase its work in the sector, as it works to help local authorities, companies, landowners and community-groups deliver their custom homes ambitions.

Acting as a consultancy, it is able to use its team of experts to support stakeholders reach the next stage of a project, whether that be a housing association looking to include custom homes or a legacy landowner looking for the right solution to creating building land with social equity built in from the start.

While this work is chargeable, the Right to Build Toolkit offers a wealth of free information, such as case studies and briefing notes, that offer invaluable advice for new ways of approaching housing delivery.

Reinventing housing was never going to be a quick process, but NaCSBA is making real growth and progress, and we intend that our work will leave the market a more diverse, and dynamic arena.

Right to Build – England’s policy approach to custom homes

The ‘Right to Build’ places two legal obligations on Local Authorities in England:

  1. Under the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 all Local Authorities in England must keep a register of people and groups of people who are seeking to purchase serviced plots of land in the authority’s area and to have regard to that register when carrying out their functions. Registers were required from 1st April 2016.|
  2. The Housing and Planning Act 2016 requires all Local Authorities in England to grant sufficient ‘development permissions’ to meet the demand for Custom and Self Build housing in their area, as established by their register, on a rolling basis. Permissions equivalent to the number of people on the register from 1st April 2016 to 31st October 2016 should be granted by 31st October 2019. Permissions equivalent to the number of people on the register from 31st October 2016 to 31st October 2017 should be granted by 31st October 2020 and so on.


NaCSBA issued a Freedom of Information request to all English Local Authorities on 1 November 2017 requesting the numbers of people and groups of people on their registers. It found that 33,000 had now signed up to the registers. This was based on the data supplied by more than three quarters of the authorities who responded. The remaining results were extrapolated based on the average of the responses received.

We would like to thank Duncan Hayes for his expert knowledge. If you have any unanswered questions about NaCSBA then feel free to contact him on If you would like to visit the Custom and Self Build Expo in Glasgow, you can book your tickets here.

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