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The Colorful, Stackable Apartments Built for the Homeless

The 36 low-cost apartments are highly transportable—so they can move on when their residents do.

via Facebook

Earlier this summer, a three-year, 12-city study involving 2,300 homeless families reached its midway point, and its researchers released some preliminary results. Those at the head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-sponsored study want to answer a seemingly simple, but unendingly complex question: How do we solve homelessness? Their early findings, which zoom in on those receiving housing subsidies from the government, indicate a seemingly simple answer.


Give homeless people homes.

This week, 36 homeless individuals will move into the three-story “move-on” complex in the London borough of Merton. The colorful series of apartments was designed by the firm of world famous architect Richard Rogers, who is responsible for Paris’ Pompidou Center, London’s Millennium Dome, and a number of high-end penthouses. And yet, the apartments’ construction costs were well under the average for the area, and rent will only be 65 percent of the market rate value, the Guardian reports.

That relative affordability comes courtesy of prefabrication. The stackable units were assembled wholesale at a factory in Derbyshire, before being shipped to their current location in London. The apartments have a lifespan of about 60 years, its architects estimate, and each can be moved and reassembled in different combinations up to five times.

The apartment units during the construction and assembly phase, via Facebook

“By having my own space with my own front door, I will regain my independence,” 24-year-old resident Wendy Omollo told TakePart in a statement. (Omollo had been homeless since the beginning of 2015.) “But it’s not just that. As the rent is affordable and I can stay for up to five years, I’ll also be able to save money for a deposit. Basically, when the time comes to move on from [the apartment], I will be in a far better situation than today.”

YMCA London South West headed up the project, and half of the apartments’ tenants come from YMCA’s hostels. (The Guardian reports that the other half was taken from Merton’s housing waiting list.)

An architect who worked on the project warns, however, that factory-built units are not a one-stop solution to homeless—a phenomenon tied to policy failings in areas like education, economics, and mental health, as well.

“[T]here’s a danger that this becomes an excuse for local authorities not to deliver long-term solutions for affordable housing, and merely use these types of buildings as a stop-gap—like the post-war prefabs, when there was a desperate need to build quickly,” architect Alex Ely told the Guardian. “We should be careful that we’re really spending time getting it right.”

Via the Guardian

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