By ditching the idea that having pot loads of cash and working alone is the only route to owning a self-built property, Kevin argues that many of us could create our own sustainable and well-designed homes.
One way of doing so is through community build projects, which see families and individuals pooling their resources to construct not just houses, but shared living spaces and childcare options.
Addressing the first time he encountered this model, when the Hedgehog co-op group featured on ‘Grand Designs’, Kevin told HuffPost UK: “It was a really interesting exercise in social sustainability, I suppose you could call it.
“People building connections to places and finding security and being able to give back to society as a result of not being too stressed by the financial circumstances they’ve found themselves in.
“I thought, in 1999, we’re going to have loads of these, we’ll be able to do a series of community self-builds but we only found one more, and that was it.
“I’d love society to be doing more of it because it just creates a fantastic community, it’s good for sustainability, it’s good for architecture, it’s good all round, it’s how we used to build.”
Another option is custom-builds, where individuals work with developers, utilising their expert advice to design and construct their homes, with the focus often being on the community surrounding each home as well as the structure itself – something Kevin thinks is crucial.
“I’m quite interested in exploring new models and ways of owning and renting or living which allows you to be part of a community and doesn’t stigmatise you,” he explains.
“Where you can feel fully integrated and because of your connection to the place – knowing that you’re going to be there for a long while – allows you to put roots down and join the residents’ association or get an allotment, whatever it is that it takes to make a connection to the place.”
One example Kevin offers is the ongoing Graven Hill development in Bicester, where £149,000 buys you a ‘Golden Brick’ plot with enough space for a three-bedroom house, garden and two car-parking spaces, along with the foundations for it.
The property which is then constructed needs to meet with a series of not-too-extensive guidelines, covering issues such as how energy is supplied to the home and which areas of the plot can be built on.
Through collaboration with local authorities, these two methods can be combined to create social-housing.
This model that is already working in a number of European cities including Berlin, where “baugruppen” groups using the community-focussed approach are responsible for one in 10 new houses.
“It’s where people come together and sometimes it’s with a social housing provider or a group of people who have sold their houses and they have cash,” he explains. “But either way they are people coming together and they work with facilitators and people in the housing department and council to build a scheme.”
As well as significantly reducing the number of identikit properties and blocks of flats being constructed across the UK, Kevin confidently argues that through using these methods “we could be actually delivering against the government’s objective of 200,000 new homes a year minimum quite significantly”.
“We need to be building more good quality, beautifully designed social housing,” he stresses. “Whether it’s through housing associations or not, central government needs to start budgeting for high-quality social housing [and] social rental, and not doing what they’re doing and promoting the Right To Buy.
“I think every generation is judged on the quality of education, healthcare and the housing it provides for people. So we need to up our game very significantly.”
‘Grand Designs Live’ is on at Birmingham’s NEC until Sunday 15 October. Find out more about the event here.
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