'We can't afford to buy a home in London so we're building our own'

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-Credit: (Image: No credit)


Meet the first-time buyers tackling London's spiralling house prices - by moving into 'build-it-yourself' properties. The average cost of a home in the city last year was £720,000 - significantly more than anywhere else in the country.

Too high for many Londoners, this created a gap in the market, which has been filled by a self-build scheme. People have started moving into the community in Ladywell, Lewisham, where all 36 homes are price-capped.

Properties have some rooms - the kitchen and the bathroom - already installed. Residents then build the rest, with self-build managers, an architect and a carpenter offering training to the residents.

And the scheme is proving popular with the waiting time for a property currently at nine YEARS.

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'Building your own house is one of the best feelings that you can get'

Rory Wakefield, a musician, is still in the process of building his home and is currently working on laying his floors. He purchased his flat for around £300,000 one month ago. As a first-time buyer, he was thrilled to own a home and says he has been a longtime fan of the scheme.

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Home owner Rory Wakefield working on his home -Credit:SWNS

He said: "I wouldn't have been able to get a house without this scheme. It makes it affordable. I was born and raised in Lewisham, and I would never have been able to stay here without this scheme.

"It is a very positive scheme. They should definitely make more, they need them. The government just want to put up things that make money quickly, they don't actually care about helping people."

Mr Wakefield also loved being able to build parts of the property himself, as it gave him more creative freedom.

The 31-year-old added: "I want it to look the way I want. I am into the philosophy of building a sustainable space and community. That is why I wanted to be involved.

"I love it. Building your own house is one of the best feelings that you can get. You can make it the way you want. It is so refreshing."

The new development is made up of 36 homes has taken 15 years from conception to completion.

The homes are part of a community land trust, meaning they are owned by a non-profit organisation, which keeps them affordable.

Units are offered in various sizes and tenures: full ownership, part-rent-part-buy, London Living Rent, and social rent.

Martin Oroyan, 61, moved into his part-rent-part-buy property with his partner and three sons just over a month ago, and is absolutely thrilled with the community feel.

The ambulance worker declined to say how much he bought his property for, but says he spent 25 per cent of its value.

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Units are offered in various sizes and tenures -Credit:SWNS

He said: "We have been involved in this project here in Ladywell since its inception in 2016 and it has been quite an experience. My partner and I were first-time buyers and had been trying to get 'on the ladder' for several years.

"Our three boys were born while living in Forest Hill and we hoped to avoid moving, changing schools and the general upheaval that implies. Without this project, we wouldn't have been able to afford living within the M25.

"We bought this house as a shell and over the last weeks, we have installed floors, sanded, scraped and covered ourselves in paint to transform it into a place filled with our past history while making room for our history to come.

"It is a friendly place to live and wonderfully quiet. Everyone is supportive, and there's a feeling of 'neighbourhood' that, unfortunately, has been lost from other urban areas.

"It's heartening to know that new residents will have the same opportunity we did in terms of affordability and be able to create their own stories here as we are now."

The housing scheme was set up by Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS), which has amassed over 1100 members since its creation.

This has caused the Ladywell development to have a lengthy waiting list.

Couple Pete Bell and Emma Onono moved into their property in April with their eight-year-old son, and say the welcoming community is a far cry from their old home in Adelaide Avenue.

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Home owners Pete Bell and Emma Ononom at home on Church Grove development where homes are being sold uncompleted to allow home buyers to finish off their homes to their own taste -Credit:SWNS

Emma, 48, said: "We applied for the scheme several years ago. Eventually we got an email saying that we made the top of the list and we jumped at it.

"It has a great community feel. You can't walk from one side to the other without saying hi to someone. Where we used to live no one even knew their neighbours.

"We got one with a kitchen in a concrete shell. We built the floors and painted the walls but that was all. I love it. Absolutely love it. There is a really nice community."

"We have an eight-year-old and there are so many kids around here playing. We never used to be able to let him out the front to play but now he can just walk out. We always have kids in our house. It is great to own and not have to deal with terrible land ladies."

55-year-old Pete says the couple paid just over 50 per cent of the value of their family home, at around £300,000 for a £600,000 property.

He added: "We were on the waitlist for eight or nine years. It is very popular. We have always rented, and we were interested in the affordable housing.

"I think there should be a lot more of these schemes if it helps people to get on the property ladder. I can't see us moving on from here, but it's great that if we do it would still be affordable for the next people."

'One of the really lovely things about it I think is that every flat is really different'

Sydney Thornbury, 57, fully bought her property over three months ago as one of the first to move in.

She decided to take part in the scheme to downsize, and says she absolutely adores living there.

She said: "We all love it, it has been fantastic. It has been even better than I thought it would be. Not only is this building an incredible testament to what people have achieved but also the community that has been created since going through this process.

"One of the really lovely things about it I think is that every flat is really different. They all have a different style or feel to them. I think sometimes newbuilds can feel personality-less but these really don't."

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Sydney Thornbury says that she put in her own floors, painted her walls and built her own custom kitchen -Credit:SWNS

Miss Thornbury, who has been involved in the project for two years, is very passionate about more community housing schemes being built.

She added: "There are better and more affordable ways to live in cities. I think this is the way that people should be living.

"I think it is really easy to say 'this is just a bunch of hippies that have put this together' but it is not. It's a bunch of people who are really frustrated with the limitations of access to affordable housing."

Miss Thornbury says that she put in her own floors, painted her walls and built her own custom kitchen.

The 57-year-old also echoed the idea that there is a great, safe, community feel in the development.

She said: "Parents can just leave their doors open and the kids can all congregate out on the courtyard and play. It is really quite extraordinary because it is teenagers playing with toddlers. Everybody is out there.

"They are not on their screens. They come home from school and immediately want to go outside and play with their friends, and they are safe because we can all hear them.

"My door is open all the time, neighbours come by and I go by theirs. The kids run up and play with my dog. It is a really lovely vibe and you feel like everyone's values are aligned."

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Anurag Verma is part of the Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS), which creates affordable housing in London, with buyers needing to finish building their new home themselves -Credit:No credit

Anurag Verma, chair of RUSS, has been volunteering for the organisation for six years and says that the final development is even better than he imagined.

He said: "I thought it was a great opportunity to see how a bunch of people could come together and make something of lasting value for our local community and for people who are struggling to buy affordable homes.

"It has been a really long journey. I have been living and breathing this thing for six years, I am there at least once or twice a week. I am very happy with it. I think it has exceeded all our expectations to be honest. There is such a good energy there.

"It worked so well because we already had a community, we just needed the buildings."

In terms of future plans, he added: "We are constantly on the search for new sites. There is still a lot of energy to do more. I think it would be quite a shame if we stopped at one because there is so much incorporated knowledge in RUSS now on how to develop.

"We are very keen to do more, but it is not easy to get access to land, so that is one of the big hurdles."