Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Could Modular Housing be the Answer to London's Housing Crisis?

Could contemporary prefabs, quickly assembled with the aid of advances in computer modelling and bolt-together construction, be the answer to London’s  housing crisis? Could efficient manufacturing improve the sluggish supply of new homes, and offer affordability for those in need?

The latest incarnation of the prefab dream can be found in Wimbledon, south London, behind the YMCA's London headquarters. The Y:Cube, a bright red module, cost just £30,000 ($50,000 US) to build off-site in a Derbyshire factory and took less than 24 hours to crane in and install. Devised by Richard Rodgers' firm RSH+P, the architects are now working with the YMCA and Merton council to create a three-storey development of 36 "move on" Y:Cube homes for homeless people as a place to live between being placed in emergency housing and finding a permanent home. Each flat will be rented out at £140 a week – 65% of the market rent. A similar 36-home scheme of RSH+P's modular flats for discount rent has also been ordered by Newham council in east London.

A YMCA hostel resident, Shantae Whyte, 22, spent most of last year sofa surfing at friends' flats. She has been staying in the Y:Cube temporarily as a test to help the architects tweak the interior design.

"It's warm, comfortable and cosy," she said. "I quickly thought of this as a really nice one-bedroom apartment. Having your own place where you can close the door and shut out the noise is a big thing. And I think it looks good. I thought: 'This is exactly kind of place that would suit me.'"

The YMCA hopes to have the development in place by the end of this year. "I'd happily be one of the first residents there, but I'm trying to give myself options. Everyone knows how tough housing is in London," said Whyte.

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