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What is self build?

What is self-build and custom build?


Self-build housing is where individuals or groups of individuals organise the design and construction of their own homes.

This covers a wide range of projects including a traditional DIY self-build, to projects where self-builders employ someone to build their homes or a group of people build their own homes together.

Custom build

Custom build housing is where you work with a developer as an individual or a group to help deliver your own home.

The developer may help to find a plot, manage the construction and arrange the finance for your new home.

This is more of a hands-off approach, but homes can be tailored to meet individual requirements with different levels of customisation. 


Community-led housing is where people and communities play a leading role in addressing their own housing needs.

It has many overlaps with group self-build and custom-build, but also considers the long-term ownership or management, and where any benefits (such as affordability) are legally protected.

To find out more about self build in Tower Hamlets please email self-build@towerhamlets.gov.uk.

To learn more about the Self-build and custom build register and to sign up visit the Self-build and custom build register.

Affordable self-build programme

In March 2020, the Mayor and Cabinet of Tower Hamlets approved the launch of the Affordable Self-Build Programme.

Through this programme, the council aims to make it easier for potential community-led housing groups and individual self-builders, to access the land they need to deliver more affordable housing in the borough.

The Affordable Self-Build Programme started with the launch of two council-owned sites being marketed on the GLA Small Sites portal following consultation which included neighbouring residents.

The assessment process for bids prioritises quality and affordability of homes being proposed over receipt offer for the land.

For more information please visit Christian Street, E1 and Lark Row, E2

It is expected that more sites will be made available on the GLA Small Sites portal soon. To receive updates please sign up to the Self-build and custom build register.

Additional information

The following information is for reference and guidance only. The council does not accept any responsibility for the content of external sites, though you may find their content useful

  • Mayor of London: making small sites available to small builders  
  • Community Led Housing London is a resource and advice hub with revenue funding available for community led housing groups
  • The Self-Build Portal  provides a wide range of information on self-build and custom housebuilding. It is produced by the National Custom and Self-Build Association (NaCSBA)
  • NaCSBA has also assembled an online toolkit to provide further information on and highlight examples of self-build and custom housebuilding from the UK and Europe. The toolkit can be found at the Right to Build toolkit
  • There is a range of information including self-build finance providers and insurers set out on the Build Store website (please note that this is a commercial website and the council is not responsible for its content)
  • The government has also prepared a Planning Practice guidance on Self-build and Custom housebuilding
  • The construction of new build dwellings is not subject to VAT, so self-builders can reclaim their VAT within three months of completing the work. Further information should be sought from HMRC.