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A rise in the number of homeless people has resulted in a proposal being drafted by the Building Trust that would consider the possibility of converting unused prefabricated garages into an affordable form of housing for them. However, concerns have been raised regarding the fact that this may worsen existing socio-economic conditions in lower-income areas.


Putting Unused Prefabricated Garages to Use

The initial proposal involves converting a set of vacant prefabricated sheds or garages into 11.5 square metre units that would allow for the temporary housing of those who are homeless. Known as the Pop-up HAWSE (Homes through Apprenticeships With Skills for Employment), this program was initially developed by Levitt Bernstein Architects for a competition that was run by the Building Trust. If implemented, the project would see each of the vacant prefabricated garages being converted to bedsitter-style living space at a cost of around £13,000 per unit.

Affordable Open Plan Living

Although the units may seem small at just over 11 square metres each, they would contain the basics such as a bedroom and shower. Dining areas, laundries and kitchen spaces would be communal by placing them between every fifth living unit, making these amenities easy to access for all inhabitants. In some instances, the structures would first be manufactured off-site and then delivered in kit form to the various areas. This would provide the opportunity for future inhabitants of these prefabricated garages to learn a trade.

Potential Concerns Regarding Living Conditions

Despite the fact that there have been concerns regarding the idea of homeless people being provided with prefabricated garages as living structures, the project has already received backing from various homeless charity organisations such as CRASH (Constructing a Future for Homeless People) and the YMCA. These organisations feel that it is far better to provide the homeless with a small living space of their own instead of cramming them into various forms of shared accommodations. While recent government guidelines promote the use of shared housing, the Building Trust feels that this often leads to the development of other socio-economic problems.

A Potential Revamp of Existing Council Estates

While concerns have been raised over the potential problems with projects such as these, Jo McCafferty from Levitt Bernstein states that it can instead be viewed as a regeneration project for existing council estate areas. The program would assist the homeless by providing them with a temporary place to stay for a year or two while being provided with the opportunity to learn skills that could assist with them becoming employed and improving their living standards in the process. Various London boroughs are in consultation with the architects, which means that the first project of this kind could be implemented within the next few months.

At this time, some folks may see this type of project as a way to deal with increasing levels of homelessness in and around London, while others are voicing their concerns over the fact that living conditions such as these may lead to the development of barrack-like living conditions that are often seen in ghettos or semi-abandoned inner city areas. Either way, only time will tell whether the project is a success or not.


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