£75m modular housing plan to help London’s homeless

Bids are being invited for the design and manufacture of modular temporary accommodation for homeless people in London. 

The £75m work programme is being led by not-for-profit company PLACE (Pan-London Accommodation Collaborative Enterprise), which is looking for “precision-manufactured” family homes that have the quality of permanent housing but can be moved from one site to another.

The accommodation will be placed on vacant sites that would otherwise remain underused over the short to medium term, known as “meanwhile” sites.

PLACE will deliver a mixture of two and three-bedroom family properties, which boroughs have identified as the property type most needed for homeless households. The company will own the units, leading to a more cost-effective option for boroughs than they would get from leasing units directly from a supplier.

PLACE held a launch event yesterday (25 July) at London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council Chambers. This was an opportunity for potential providers to hear more about the programme and ask questions. 

The deadline for submissions of the Expression of Interest Selection Questionnaire is 15 August 2018.

The project has been developed by the London Housing Directors’ Group in collaboration with partners from across London local government. Supported by the Greater London Authority, which is investing £11m from its innovation fund, and by the umbrella group London Councils, which represents the 32 boroughs and the City of London, PLACE is hosted by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and has an initial target of delivering 200 modular homes across the capital.

This is the first time UK local authorities are collaborating to acquire modular housing for this purpose.

PLACE will use the modular housing to provide high-quality, local temporary accommodation for people needing a home. There are currently over 54,300 London households living in temporary accommodation – of which nearly 44,000 are families with children.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing and planning, said: “Rising rates of homelessness represent a momentous challenge for the capital and London’s boroughs are determined to work together to secure better options for local families in need of a home.

“PLACE is exactly the sort of exciting new approach we need to see – innovative collaboration that will improve outcomes for homeless Londoners.”

Mark Baigent, PLACE’s director, said: “Our aim is to challenge and inspire the housing design and construction industry to create an innovative and high-quality product to meet London’s opportunities and needs head-on.

“We want to procure attractive and spacious factory-built homes that can be easily moved from site to site around London. We look forward to sharing our vision and seeing what the rapidly growing modular market can offer.”

James Murray, deputy mayor for housing and residential development, said: “Solving the housing crisis in London means everyone will have to play their part – and, crucially, making use of all the land we have for homes, including sites that might otherwise go unused for several years.

“PLACE is an exciting example of London boroughs working together with an innovative approach to help families in need of temporary accommodation, and the Mayor is pleased to support the project with his affordable homes programme’s innovation fund.”

John Biggs, mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “I’m proud that this new solution to homelessness through modular housing is getting started in Tower Hamlets. It’s an important project and I look forward to it spreading across London.”

Image: The Murray Grove modular development in north London

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  1. I wrote to my own MP suggesting (among other things) that prefabricated housing could help solve the housing crisis some time ago. I was therefore pleased to hear the government announce measures supporting their construction. Such housing was used successfully at the end of WW2 to tackle the problem they faced then so it is not unprecedented. I hope this solution is taken up more widely and spreads to other areas with pressing housing needs.

    I donate a regular amount to the Salvation Army because I’m particularly concerned with the scourge of homelessness and all it entails. I also sent an email to them recently suggesting that they get involved in the provision of such temporary housing and that a joint approach with other charities and interested groups may help with its implementation. I’m yet to get a reply.

    Here in Stevenage we have a growing number of homeless people begging for help. When I mention the Salvation Army they say all they get from them is tea and sympathy. There appears to be no further help with either signposting or housing applications. Even though local authorities have a duty of care to the homeless and should provide emergency housing, many homeless people tell me they are being turned away. Along with housing many of these people need help with other problems and such help needs to be factored into the project.

    Many have problems with addiction, mental health issues, lack of education and skills, etc. Maybe some of the units can be designed for multiple occupancy with shared facilities so that more single homeless can be accommodated. Hopefully, with help, and when safely housed these people can overcome their problems and become more useful members of society. If they find work they can even move out and be more self supporting and have more life choices. Other on-site facilities could include a community kitchen and meeting place where advice, education and other help can be offered.

    This will help generate a community spirit which will be vital to the success of these communities. A cooperative spirit whereby the community help each other should be actively encouraged and will help give these people a purpose in life. Also there is room for other outside partners to get involved. Universities could be challenged with finding solutions as part of their academic research. Good luck with your project and I hope it’s a resounding success.
    Yours truly, Barrie Heath

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