We spoke with Mark Baigent, Interim Director of Housing and Regeneration, LB Tower Hamlets about the homelessness crisis in the UK, and how modular construction solutions might be the answer.
London faces a growing homelessness crisis. More than 54,000 households in London are currently housed in temporary accommodation and the majority of these are families with children. With growing pressure on local authority resources, there is an urgent need to find new solutions to homelessness.
PLACE (Pan-London Accommodation Collaborative Enterprise) is one such solution. Set up in 2018 by London boroughs, PLACE identifies ‘meanwhile’ land (sites earmarked for development at a later date but currently available) and makes use of modular construction solutions to develop accommodation. This provides higher-quality accommodation for families, makes better use of land that would remain otherwise unused, and delivers improved results for the local authorities.
PLACE seizes on the spirit of collaboration that is growing among London boroughs and will allow them to share housing resources across the city. Using precision manufacturing techniques to develop the modular accommodation means these units can be moved to a new location with minimal disruption. While there is some precedent of modular housing being used in this way, PLACE represents the first time UK local authorities have joined forces to procure modular housing as temporary accommodation for homeless households.
The scheme was developed by the London Housing Directors’ Group and London Councils, the umbrella body representing all 32 boroughs and the City of London using seed funding from Capital Ambition through the London Ventures programme and an £11 million grant secured from the Greater London Authority’s innovation fund.
The first modular housing will be on site this year, and PLACE’s target is to have 200 homes across London. The accommodation will meet London space standards and will not look different to any other residential building scheme. It will have minimal environmental impact and remain a sustainable solution for the future. The programme will look to make use of sites for 8-10 years and homes will have a lifespan of 40 years.
Delivering new two and three-bedroom homes, PLACE will take families out of overcrowded temporary accommodation, such as B&Bs, and help ensure they can remain close to their school, place of work, and support networks. It is anticipated that this will lead to much better outcomes for homeless households.
PLACE is a hugely exciting programme. It is an opportunity for local authorities and the development sector to work together in innovating for the public good. And while PLACE by itself won’t end homelessness in London, it will make a crucial difference to the lives of many homeless Londoners.