What is ‘Meanwhile Housing’?
A ‘meanwhile home’ is the temporary use of a vacant space or an interim development for housing while planning decisions are made. The planning process is a notoriously difficult and long process, and while there are reforms ahead, we don’t know when that will be.
The most common most of us will have encountered are pop-up shops or bars, something we’ve tapped into quite well. This is when businesses make use of empty shops and help make vacant spaces vibrant and full again, helping to revive towns and cities. After the pandemic and Brexit, times are tough and not everyone will have the money to rent a large space for the long-term. So why not let smaller companies make use of the space, either for bars, shops and offices or temporary homes?
We’re in the middle of a housing crisis and the pandemic has only made things worse. While more companies may be turning to more innovative methods to get their projects underway, more and more people are still ending up on the streets or on ever-growing housing waiting lists. We simply aren’t building enough houses. A large proportion of the homes that people live in are also largely unsuitable or unaffordable. So let’s make temporary housing beautiful and accessible for anyone who needs it, whether that be a young couple, a family or a vulnerable person needing support.
Meanwhile housing can provide a short-term solution for the housing crisis and make use of the many vacant spaces we have sitting around the UK. Whether they’re in place for three years or 15 years, they could create a suitable home in areas where there’s a huge shortage. It can help councils and local authorities relieve waiting lists, while recreating areas and building up communities. Taking people off the streets or out of unsuitable hotels and into beautiful, affordable homes where councils can provide support and eventually, help into more permanent homes.
Here are just a couple of examples where we’ve managed to provide a temporary housing solution for various councils.
We delivered Hope Gardens: a 60-apartment shipping container housing solution for Ealing Council and QED Property. The largest temporary accommodation of its kind in the UK, Meath Court in Acton’s Hope Gardens provided emergency accommodation for families in need in converted shipping container homes – just in time for Christmas 2017.
Once a brownfield site, identified for long-term redevelopment in just under seven years, Hope Gardens now consists of 60 fully furnished one, two and three bedroomed container homes, a communal space, an onsite management office, laundry services and refuse storage, providing a sense of community for its new residents.
We also delivered Greenfarm in Cardiff for City of Cardiff Council in March 2020; an emergency modular accommodation providing an extension to an existing hostel. Utilising an existing car park, the accommodation provides eight two-bed temporary accommodation units for people and families in need.
This has been built for homeless families and single people in need who need somewhere to live while they get support and wait for more permanent housing. At the time, Cardiff had over 1300 waiting for a home and to meet demand the council had to house people in expensive nightly-let accommodation.
In April 2017, we provided an innovative emergency accommodation development using shipping containers for Ealing Council, QED Property and CargoTek. Marston Court was an innovative solution in response to housing supply problems in the borough. A 34-apartment development that was created using a kit of movable and reusable parts, based around repurposed shipping containers. This provided a sustainable, flexible and affordable solution to emergency housing.
The Marston Court development on Bordars Walk, Ealing, is located on a previously disused brownfield site that attracted fly tipping and anti-social activity. The development, which brings vacant land back into productivity through interim use, will help those in immediate need of emergency accommodation, including young families and low-income individuals.
The development, which housed up to 72 individuals, comprised four pavilions with 34 secure, ready to move in fully furnished apartments, a management office, laundry and refuse storage. The site was also landscaped with open outside spaces and a play area.
Housing has changed for people, especially since the pandemic. More people realised that they were living in unsuitable accommodation when they were forced to stay in it for months on end. Families were either living on top of each other or homes were falling apart with no one to provide a solution. Within each of our projects, we want to make sure that we’re delivering exactly what the client needs. Some emergency accommodation has been criticised for being cold, damp and noisy with little room to move around. All of our homes are beautiful, accessible and sustainable. We have built communities despite them being a short-term solution and want people to feel at home however long they may be living there.