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modular housing and the homelessness crisis

9th November 2018

 

Just over a year ago, the National Audit Office announced that in March 2017 there were over 77,240 households in temporary accommodation in England. With homelessness costing the public sector an estimated £1 billion per year, the housing system is in desperate need of support.

 

A modular solution?

The Local Government Association published a detailed report entitled ‘Council Innovation and Learning in Housing Our Homeless Households’. The report included a particular focus on those councils taking innovative steps to tackle the problem, and we were very pleased to see that modular construction forms part of this.

Modular structures can be quickly assembled with a great deal of flexibility in design, with the ability to build modular homes of many different sizes and configurations. Modular construction is much faster than traditional build, which means that multiple units can be built in a fraction of the time of a bricks-and-mortar home.

Using this modern method of construction would afford local authorities a great deal of flexibility in their provision of both permanent and temporary accommodation. What’s more, the report specifically mentions the use of modular housing on undeveloped sites, including brownfield sites – and as modular homes can utilise simpler foundations, they are ideally suited to these locations.

 

Relocatable buildings

One of the specific recommendations that the LGA’s report makes is regarding re-deployable modular housing – also known as relocatable or demountable modular buildings.

In essence, what this means is structures that are manufactured in a dedicated factory and craned into place, but which can then be moved to another site should there be a requirement elsewhere, or if the original site is required for redevelopment.

As modular homes are designed to be transportable, making them relocatable is no issue – off-site specialists like us can also re-clad or otherwise alter the buildings to better match the local character of the site’s surroundings. This will assist with some of the potential stumbling blocks, such as securing planning permission.

 

In practice

Some councils are already taking action on this issue, deploying pilot schemes aimed at encouraging the development of permanent homes built for affordable rent using offsite construction.

One scheme highlighted in the LGA’s report is the innovative approach taken by Brighton and Hove City Council.  There, the local council has put out a call for potential developers to lease land with a view to delivering modular build pilot schemes in a way that – in theory – reduces the risk for all concerned.

Private rental in Brighton is expensive due to the student population in the town, which means that the local housing allowance falls short of the average rent:  modular housing is seen a solution, with several small constrained garage sites now dedicated to the development of affordable modular homes for the private rental market.

In practice, it remains to be seen whether the national government and local authorities can work together with private developers to deliver modular housing schemes that will truly make a difference to homelessness and the shortage of affordable homes for low income families.

But with its speed of construction, flexibility of design, and high quality of build, modular housing is a clear-cut part of the solution.

If you want to find out how our modular housing solution could help create more space for families in the UK please contact us today.