Self-build housing

From HousingWiki
A diversity of (self-build) house styles in Almere, Netherlands.
A diversity of (self-build) house styles in Almere, Netherlands.

The small Dutch city of Almere, in the Netherlands' Oosterwold district, has become the epicenter of a growing development trend; that of self-build housing. Self-build housing schemes remove developers (and to a certain extent planners) from the equation in terms of controlling and determining development and put the process of building new residences more directly into the hands of individuals and their communities.

The Netherlands have long heavily subsidized private investment in development. At this writing (2017), self-build houses now account for about a third of all houses built in that country. This large-scale development is financed and customized by private citizens with help from the government and self-build programs are aimed at meeting the housing needs of lower and middle-income households. In Almere (population: 190,000), for example, the focus is on housing for families who earn less than $29,000 a year and so far the majority of its residents live in self-build houses.

Via the Almere Poort project:

- Individuals purchase plots of land from the local government
- These residents are able to easily get a mortgage without a downpayment once they are designated part of the program

- They then can build their own house, according to their own wishes, with the help of architects or designers and tradespeople and following basic government housing standards

Self-build programs cut out developers, who often scoop up large tracts of residential land (thus making them unavailable for individual buyers or other development ventures). The self-build concept also acts to control for inflated real estate prices, as it eliminates developers and their attendant profit incentive.

Self-build paradigms also frequently encourage collaborative decisions about building code, road irrigation, and other concerns that in the classic North American model, for example, would be controlled by municipal planners and elected officials. As such, self-build developments, as they lack the kind of uniformity often imposed by code under other regimes, can have a haphazard appearance. 

Overall, the self-build concept runs counter to the one operative in North America for decades through which what can be built is strongly controlled and defined by zoning and other restrictions imposed by a municipality. Self-build development stands in strong contrast to the paternalistic view of the past that saw social housing projects shaped to fit the visions of federal and local governments, developers, and urban planners more than the needs and desires of low-income people themselves.


What Canada Could Learn from A Dutch Self-build Housing Movement