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Providing your own affordable home and self build projects

The National Custom and Self Build Association defines self build as projects where someone directly organises the design and construction of their new home.

The traditional example is a 'DIY self build' home, where you select the design you want and then do much of the actual construction work yourselves. Self build also includes projects where you find a plot and arranges for an architect/contractor to build your home.

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Custom build homes are those where you work with a specialist developer to help deliver your home. They can provide serviced plots, make a range of designs available and even arrange a mortgage for you to fund the build. Custom build is more ‘hands off’ than self build and it can help to take advantage of specialist skills and advice.

Building your own home can save you money.

Individuals decide to selfbuild for a range of reasons, including their preferred location, the ability to achieve a unique design, or for environmental benefit.

Things to consider are: 

  • Do you qualify for affordable housing?
  • Finding a building plot
  • Selfbuild skills and resources
  • Planning permission
  • Finance

If you wish to build an affordable home for yourself, you and the people living with you need to meet certain requirements. You would need to complete a Single Dwelling Questionnaire so that circumstances can be assessed; this includes proof that you cannot afford to rent or buy on the open market. Cornwall Council will assess your eligibility.

Please email your completed single dwelling questionnaire directly to Affordable Housing at with your Planning or Pre-Application registration number.

Yes. If you are granted planning consent for an affordable home, you would need to sign a s106 planning agreement. This controls who can occupy the property, who it can be sold to, and the maximum rent or sale price that can be charged. A s106 is a legal document which forms part of the planning permission, read our Understanding your s106 Agreement guidance.

Low cost land is rare. The average open market cost of a selfbuild plot in the UK is over £200,000.

If you have some land and want to have an affordable home built for yourself or a member of your family, you will need to familiarise yourself with the Council’s planning rules for doing this. Full guidance is available in the Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document

Cornwall Council sells surplus land at market price. You can find out where land is being sold, the guide price and who to contact on the Council properties for sale or lease page.

Estate Agents and Land Agents can provide advice about finding land. View the Buying Land: A Guide On How To Buy Land for further advice and guidance including what you need to consider before buying some land.

Affordable selfbuild projects can be based on less expensive land, the kind that is usually developed under the Exceptions planning policy to provide affordable housing for local people.

Organisations such as the Cornwall Community Land Trust and Cornwall Rural Housing Association may be able to help selfbuild groups with proposals to build on land that can only be developed under an Exceptions planning policy.

Where a Selfbuild group can demonstrate that its members would qualify for affordable housing, and have the skills, resources, and initial funding in place, Cornwall Council may be able to secure selfbuild plots from a developer, as part of his planning approval to provide open market and affordable housing.

The "Register of interest in Self and Custom Build in Cornwall" helps the Council determine the levels of demand for this type of housing.  Individuals or associations can register their interest and find out more information.

Potential selfbuilders should study the selfbuild advice in the Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document. This provides advice about getting together with others as part of a local selfbuild group.

If you do not have practical experience in any construction trades you will need to consider how you could get training or make sure that you can afford to pay for trademen to do the work for you. There are books, courses, and selfbuild companies and organisations that provide access to a range of publications, courses, and resources.

There are not many banks or building societies that will provide finance for selfbuilt affordable housing, particularly where there is a s106 planning obligation in place.  Before submitting any proposals for selfbuilding, please make early enquiries about funding, and how much deposit will be needed.

Selfbuilders are subject to the same Planning rules as anyone else, and should familiarise themselves with the planning application process. Planning advice and guidance is available from us using pre-application planning advice.

Cornwall Council’s Affordable Housing Policy recognises that self build housing can make an important contribution to meeting local housing need, in particular for those requiring some form of intermediate housing. When built as affordable housing, selfbuilding households must be in housing need, and have a relevant local connection to the area.

The size of affordable selfbuild dwellings should be no larger than 100m2 and the initial sale / rental values must not exceed the Council’s maximum price thresholds for the relevant property size, with a 10% Sweat Equity uplift, and with future resales at a fixed percentage of open market value. Appropriate legal arrangements would need to be put in place, covering the individual selfbuilders, any linked organisations such as a community land trust, and any future occupiers of the homes. Selfbuilders need to be aware that not all banks or building societies lend on selfbuild projects, and some do not accept schemes that involve affordable housing planning obligations.

Selfbuild projects have successfully been completed in Cornwall by groups of selfbuilders, rather than individuals. A selfbuild group can share their skills and resources. Successful selfbuild groups need to be professionally project managed. A good practice example is the St Minver Selfbuild scheme

In July 2012 the government announced its Group Custom Build initiative to encourage more self building and custom building. In Cornwall, Government-owned land has been made available at Torpoint and at Pool, and loan funding has been provided for other land, and to cover selfbuilding costs until selfbuilders are able to secure their mortgages.

The scheme closed in 2015, and whilst Cornwall Council was NOT directly involved in the land and funding arrangements, it is delighted that the Government chose the County for its first Custom Build pilot site, at Heartlands in Pool. There developer Carillion-igloo is working with landowner the Homes and Communities Agency, registered provider Coastline, the Heartlands Trust and of course the Council to deliver 54 Custom Build homes. More information can be found at

This website provides practical guidance and information for councils, housing associations, community organisations and builders/developers that want to facilitate custom and self build housing projects.

Custom and Self Build Toolkit

The Council have provided a short guide to providing your own affordable home, which can be downloaded here - bitesize guide to providing your own affordable home.