Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Land Reform Review Group

The Land Reform Review Group was an independent review group established by the Scottish Government in 2012 and the report was published in May 2014.  This is what it said about self build in Scotland.

Land Reform report

page 134

As the levels of private housing output have increased over the past 30 years, the housebuilding sector has become increasingly dominated by a smaller number of larger firms.  To give some sense of scale, one of the UK’s top three house-builders sold almost 9,500 houses alone in 2010.  The business model of volume house-builders is essentially speculative and involves the need to continually land bank. In addition, the volume house building model does not suit much of rural, and particularly remote rural, Scotland, and this is reflected in the limited involvement of these companies in many rural areas. In general, fewer and larger sites, controlled by fewer and larger companies is unhealthy in terms of competition, local placemaking, design and quality standards, housing choice, house prices and local production and supply chains – all of which are essential elements for creating sustainable communities.

Unlike the UK, many European countries have a much more diverse house building industry with significant levels of ‘self-build’ being commonplace. The term ‘self-build’ refers to small scale housing development, where houses are built or procured by the people (acting individually or collectively) who will actually live in them. This includes the kind of community-led, co-operative or mutual home ownership initiatives which have been so successful in mainland Europe. Crucially, the self-build model removes the speculative element which characterizes the dominant volume housebuilding model. Because people are building homes to live in, rather than houses to sell, self-build also leads to more energy efficient houses, which tend to be designed to a higher standard.

In the UK, self-build currently accounts for between 10% and 15% of the market. In many EU countries that figure is nearer 50%.  In terms of land supply, the Office of Fair Trading, in their 2008 Report on Housebuilding, point out that“in terms of ensuring that land which is already available for housing is used efficiently and output maximised, it is important to maintain a vibrant self-build sector”

However, in terms of land reform, a strong self-build sector is also essential if we want to diversify home ownership and encourage the development of community-led initiatives and alternative housing models such as mutual home ownership and different forms of co-operative housing. efficient use of land and in encouraging different forms of home ownership.

The Group recommends that encouraging and supporting the development of a vibrant self-build sector should be an explicit aim of housing strategy in Scotland

Saturday, 22 August 2015

We need to encourage people to "self build" houses

Local building firms are struggling to get staff and this means less houses will get built unless other ways to build houses are found.  Aberdeen city council should follow Glasgow and encourage self build housing projects.

Financial times article

"A lack of bricklayers, electricians and plasterers has emerged as one of the biggest obstacles to overcoming Britain’s acute shortage of housing.

An estimated 240,000 houses a year need to be built to meet demand according to one estimate by the Town and Country Planning Association, but in the year to September only 117,000 were built. 

Housebuilders slashed the number of workers when the recession hit in 2008 and many of those tradesmen have since left the country or found a new profession."

Construction enquirer article

"The number of firms reporting shortages of bricklayers has peaked again as the industry enters its seventh consecutive quarter of growth."

Dailyrecord article

"Gordon Nelson, Scottish director of the FMB, said: “Small Scottish construction firms tell us that it’s often difficult to attract skilled workers back into the construction industry once they have left – many find completely new careers and a significant proportion are not willing to return to an industry which dealt them a hard blow.

“This has certainly been the case since the most recent economic downturn.

“In order to tackle the construction skills crisis, we’ll need to focus our efforts on attracting new entrants such as ex-military personnel and young construction apprentices.”

The latest figures from the Scottish Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) predict nearly 6,000 additional tradespeople will be required every year in Scotland over the next five years to meet demand, notably in housebuilding.

However the FMB said construction firms “are already experiencing a skills shortage in the SME sector”."

This is money article

"For some highly skilled individuals – notably in information technology and construction – inflation-busting gains of 10 per cent or more are not uncommon."

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A renewable way to Travel

Sundowner electric bike

So we decided to get some gentle exercise and due to sore knees we chose cycling with some "help".  We first of all tried to buy electric bikes secondhand but that proved difficult due to poor battery status on old electric bikes.  The batteries degrade, especially if not used or overcharged.  Also Aberdeen is hilly so we wanted bikes that could go up the hills without killing us.  After a few weeks of using the bikes I can definitely say they are brilliant.  We did have a few teething problems but now both bikes are doing great and we are also much safer and less wobbly on them.  Neither me or my wife Kate are yet ready to take on Aberdeen's roads so we cycle on a disused railway line that has been turned into a road.  We chose our bikes with 15 amp batteries to give us plenty of "ooomph" up the hills.

The bikes come with 5 settings that "assist" the rider.  Setting 1 is the lowest form of assist.  We ride normally on setting 3 which gives you between 10 and 12 mph with pedalling.  It will do that speed up hill too.  The speed is limited to 15 mph otherwise it would be classified as a moped....

Hopefully one day we will use the bikes to get around the city but for that we need more safe cycle tracks.