Sunday 25 September 2016

WATCH: First look at prefabs costing from just €35k that councils hope will solve homeless crisis

Published 15/09/2015 | 07:53

Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Spacebox.
Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Spacebox.
Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Roankabin.
Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Roankabin.
Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Portakabin.
Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by MOM Services.
Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Skyclad.

These are the prefab homes that Dublin's four local authorities are banking on to solve the homeless crisis, which racked up €4.5m in hotel costs alone for the first six months of this year.

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The modular units were put on show yesterday as part of the solution to the crisis, which now has 607 families with 1,275 children without homes in Dublin alone.

More than 400 of those families are living in hotel rooms where they have no space and cannot cook for themselves, while more than 200 families are in other emergency homeless accommodation.

But while six different styles of prefabricated homes of differing cost and finish were shown off at the site on East Wall Road, the Homeless Executive was not prepared to outline the potential sites they have examined around the greater Dublin area which are being considered for these projects.

Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Modular Homes Ireland.
Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Modular Homes Ireland.

"This is all about starting a conversation on providing a possible solution to a crisis that is unsustainable for homeless families and unsustainable for our councils," said Cathal Morgan, director of Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE).

Crisis

Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by MOM Services.
Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by MOM Services.

While the more stereotypical perception of homelessness in the past has been the socially marginalised sleeping in doorways and on benches, the majority of the new homeless are the ones who have been forced onto the streets because of an economic crisis from rising rents pricing them out of the market.

"We had 78 of those types of families come to us for the first time last month alone, and spending millions on hotel rooms that are inadequate in the long term and leaving us with nothing to physically show for the money is not a good use of our limited resources," said Mr Morgan.

Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Portakabin.
Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Portakabin.

The prefab homes vary in style and cost, with two-bedroom units on display designed for a family of five costing from €35,000 up to around €80,000 to install.

If a rough average of €60,000 per two-bed unit was taken, councils could have bought 75 of these homes for the money spent on hotels alone in the first six months of this year, and they could potentially still have them as fully functioning homes for the next 20-30 years and still make use of them at the end of that time.

Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Skyclad.
Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Skyclad.

The DRHE said the houses can then be easily and quickly replaced and possibly altered for other uses, such as student accommodation.

Some are laid out in the traditional style of houses with separate rooms off a hallway, while others feel more like open-plan apartments.

Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Modular Homes Ireland.
Monday 14 October 2015. East Wall Fire Station. Modular Homes Display. This house is by Modular Homes Ireland.

Some are brighter with bigger windows and are designed to stand alone, while others can be stacked into blocks.

"It depends on whether you are looking at a city centre setting with a higher density, or a more open area, but what we are aiming for is a well designed housing solution that is as well thought out as all our other housing projects," said Ali Grehan, city architect with Dublin City Council.

While many will have an image of old-school prefabs which were freezing in the winter and roasting in the summer, these modern units are all built to modern housing standards and are fully insulated.

"The speed with which the units can be constructed is a large factor in keeping costs down, as well as a lack of waste, and it would be economical if we were buying in larger quantities," a spokesman for Dublin City Council told the Herald.

One provider said it took just 12 hours to construct its unit on a pre-formed base, and it could be disassembled in six hours and rebuilt elsewhere in the same time.

Families

Over the next few days councillors and stakeholders will be visiting the East Wall site, and it is expected some homeless families will also be shown the types of homes that could become available in the future.

Any or all of the designs, or adaptations of them, are open for consideration by the local authorities depending on family size and available space.

Following the demonstration project the four local authorities will be considering the next steps in terms of planning or procurement with central government, but it would be late next year at the earliest before such homes could realistically be rolled out.

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