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Council considers modular homes on car parks as temporary housing solution

Raft of measures discussed as council desperately tries to plug budget black hole amid spike in use of hotels as temporary accommodation, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The council could start installing modular homes on car parks (credit Abastav via Wikimedia Commons)
The council could start installing modular homes on car parks (credit Abastav via Wikimedia Commons)

Modular homes on car parks could become a solution to Enfield’s homelessness crisis as the council looks to slash spending on hotel rooms for use as temporary accommodation.

The civic centre is set to spend £330,000 on studies to test the feasibility of modular housing, which is manufactured quickly off-site and can be assembled on vacant land, car parks and rooftops.

It is one of a raft of initiatives designed to cut spending on bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation, including hotels, which the council acknowledges are “inappropriate” for families.

Enfield council has increasingly used the private rented sector to house homeless families in recent years because of a shortage of social housing in the borough, but soaring interest rates over the past twelve months have plunged the sector into crisis, as landlords decide to hike rents or sell up in response.

In Enfield, Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction rates recently became the highest in London.

As a result, hundreds of Enfield families are now being housed in hotels and other types of B&B accommodation, often for months on end. This comes at a significant cost to the council, and it is currently forecasting an “unsustainable” £17.8million overspend on this year’s temporary accommodation budget.

According to reports presented to a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Wednesday (13th), housing a family in a hotel typically costs £45,424 per year – but housing them in a modular home owned by the local authority instead would only cost £4,307 per year.

Modular homes are built off-site and can be delivered with internal fittings already provided. They are lightweight, easy to transport and require only shallow foundations.

The council says the homes can be installed on car parks using steel frame stilts, meaning the car parks can still be used. It hopes to provide around 99 units by 2028 and 30 “rooftop units” by 2027, at a cost of £24.4m.

Other initiatives proposed by the council include adding extra storeys to existing temporary accommodation blocks, which can sometimes be done without full planning permission following changes to permitted development rights in 2020.

Housing Gateway Limited, a council-owned company set up to acquire properties for use as affordable rented accommodation, is also looking to add around 350 new homes to its portfolio over the next five years.

The council will continue to use vacant homes on housing estates that are awaiting regeneration, such as Joyce Avenue and Snells Park in Edmonton, as an interim solution to the surge in homelessness.

The latest council figures reveal 3,100 Enfield households are living in temporary accommodation, and that the proportion of those housed in B&Bs is continuing to rise.

George Savva, Enfield’s cabinet member for social housing, accused the government of failing to tackle the housing crisis and said 400 homeless families were approaching the council every month “as the cost-of-living crisis hits and landlords leave the market”.

He told Wednesday’s meeting that the council was “on the move all the time, trying to find new ways to help people have a roof over their heads”.

In June, the council agreed a new policy of moving families stuck in hotels away from London and the south-east of England as a solution to the problem.

Commenting on the plans for modular homes, director of housing and regeneration Joanne Drew said the council was “still at the exploratory stage” but was “very clear that any housing provision has to meet essential space standards, thermal standards, and generally have amenities around it that supports family life”.