I mentioned that I had done some investigations into site size and costs of building. These are very preliminary indeed and to be taken as such but may help move the discussion along.
Site size: As we know there are a range of options for the project from conversion of existing buildings to entirely new build. In order to get an idea of the size of sites we might look for I did the attached drawings. These show in very basic form a group of 8 new build dwellings round a courtyard space with some shared facilities, (shown in darker grey). Option 1, at less than an acre, has very little ‘extra’ space, ie is a tight site. Option 2 at over 1 acre shows a little more space. This makes me feel we should be looking for sites of more than 1 acre, probably nearer 2. Of course if we want fields, paddocks, tennis courts etc. we will need larger sites and this is all likely to be location and price dependant. (As a guide an urban site, the Old Sorting Office on Devonshire Road Forest Hill that we talked about is about 0.25 Acres and is consequently really too small. The Barns at Hadlow in Kent were on 6 acres, plenty of space but limited in capacity by planning restriction on dwelling number).
Costs: There are two possible models, for 4 and 8 dwellings, both including some communal facilities. Using some very simple assumptions as to cost of construction and site value I have estimated the cost per dwelling for each of these models. Not surprisingly building 8 dwellings is cheaper per dwelling than 4 as the site value and cost of communal space is spread. Construction costs and land value are based on research so far and we should review these as we learn more.
Whether these numbers are reliable or not they do give an idea. They confirm for me that the project is a sound one but that we are likely to need to find a ‘transitional vehicle’ of some kind to fund the process, to buy sites and pay for construction ahead of selling up our own homes. I intend to explore the options for this over the next few weeks. Responses so far from various people have suggested that with the combined buying power of a group like us, the project is certainly do-able. Options for that ‘transitional vehicle’ range from, a loan from a bank to a company or trust that we set up, to a third party ‘developer’ doing it for us, or to the involvement of a housing association with a portfolio of residential projects and access to funds.
GP March 2012