Simon Chouffot is part of a team aiming to build ‘custom homes’ at affordable prices in Enfield, writes James Cracknell
The number of renters in Enfield – and across London – has been rising rapidly over the past two decades.
According to the Greater London Authority (GLA), more than 42% of people now rent socially or privately in the borough, compared to 28% at the turn of the century. Home ownership has become increasingly out of reach; over a 20-year period the average cost of a home in Enfield rose from four times the average income, to 14 times.
Statistics like these are the reason politicians today talk about a ‘housing crisis’, with young people in particular affected by soaring rents and the inability to get a foot on the housing ladder. The government has introduced policies aimed at tackling the problem, such as the Help to Buy scheme, while the GLA has introduced measures to try and boost the amount of ‘affordable’ housing being built.
But is it time to take a completely new approach to tackling the housing crisis? Simon Chouffot believes so. He’s one of the co-founders of a not-for-profit developer that’s aiming to turn the concept of house-building on its head – and is using Enfield as a test case.
Simon told the Dispatch: “There were four of us who were friends working in the housing sector, but we couldn’t afford to buy anywhere, we had been priced out of the communities where we had put down roots.
“We wondered if we could be part of the solution. We wanted to be part of the process of creating our own homes.”
Naked House, the community interest company run by Simon and his three friends, uses the concept of ‘naked’ homes – where only the shell of a home is constructed. Leaving out fixtures and fittings dramatically lowers the cost of the build. It then means the homebuyer can complete the remainder of the work themselves, customising the interior to their own taste using contractors or doing it themselves.
“We realised it was something a lot of people might want,” said Simon. “And that it could potentially help thousands of people.
“We start by looking at local people’s incomes, then we build something that is affordable to them – the opposite way around to other developers. If you get the basics right and make sure what is there is designed well then you can give people the freedom to decide what to do next, so they can adapt their own homes.”
After the initial concept won a design competition in 2016, Naked House obtained financial backing from the Mayor of London and is now working on launching its first development – 22 new homes in Enfield. Simon and the team are currently working with Enfield Council to identify suitable sites where they can be built, with planning applications likely to be submitted next year.
“We are looking at underused sites, such as derelict garages, that might be too small for the council to develop, but taken together can work.
“This will be an initial pilot project, we want to scale it up in Enfield and then neighbouring boroughs like Haringey, and elsewhere in London.
“We are in the middle of the biggest housing crisis for generations and there is a desperate need to build housing.”
The homes, once built, will be allocated by the council to people who live and work in Enfield, using the standard criteria to assess housing need, and will cost 70% of market value to buy. Simon says that by combining this discount with the ‘naked’ concept, the homes will be affordable to people in Enfield earning an average wage. He recommends that anyone interested register as a member of Naked House – for free – so they can take part in discussions and get updates as the project progresses.
“It is about showing the demand is there for these homes, that people want to tap into the DIY spirit of what we are doing.
“It feels like now is a good time for innovative and affordable housing. In every crisis there is an opportunity and that is how Naked House fits in.
“Profit isn’t our motive. Providing great homes is our motive.”
For more information about Naked House: