Charity builds "Lego-style houses" to tackle UK rent crisis

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Y CubeOne of Britain's leading housing charities has come up with a novel way to beat London's housing crisis, in the form of “Lego-style” housing. Though they say housing crisis and the government does neither London nor the UK has a housing crisis, nor a homelessness one; all the UK has is an empty homes crisis.

Y: Cube, developed by the YMCA, offer 26 square meter prefabricated “studio” apartments that can be easily built almost anywhere.

According to the charity, the housing blocks provide everything from clean water to central heating, making them the ideal home for people working in London unable to afford the capital's rent. And that problem was created by one of the previous government, namely the Thatcher regime, when it more-or-less forced the councils to divest themselves off their social housing stocks.

One unit costs around £30,000 to build, and are let for £140 per week, making the units 65 percent cheaper than standard London accommodation.

The units were developed with Roger Strik Harbour, an award winning architect partially owned by Baron Rogers of Riverside, which specializes in functionalist structures.

Closely resembling the red hotels found on a Monopoly board, the units can also be stacked in a tower in order to save space and fit more residents.

“The average disposable income going on housing now is going on fifty percent. People are having to make huge compromises, they're having to share flats, share houses. Ideally, what people want is their own front door,” YMCA Director of Housing and Development Andy Readfearn has said.

“So there's a massive, massive gap and what we want to do is begin to address that, challenge the sector to provide choice and give hope to people.

“You have to innovate, you have to bring different people to the market. Y: Cube is our solution. This allows us to procure accommodation quickly, we can keep these rents really low so everyone benefits,” he added.

Such solutions come as homelessness is spiking across the UK.

According to the Combined Homeless and Information Network (CHAIN) database, 112,070 people declared themselves homeless between 2013-14, while the number of people sleeping rough in London grew by more than 70 percent, to 6,437 people.

Other reports suggest one in three Britons are just one pay check away from homelessness, as wages at the bottom end of the economy continue to stagnate.

Shelter, another homeless support charity, estimate more than 90,000 children in the UK are without a permanent home, the highest number of homeless children since 2011.

The biggest scandal, as already mentioned, is the fact, though, that there are homeless people, individuals and families, while at the same there are thousands upon thousands of empty homes, not to speak of other empty properties that groups of people would be happy to turn into homes themselves, that are allowed to decay, that are not even on the empty homes register as they are waiting for the right time and price to be sold off to developers, including and especially council homes.

The government, and, I am afraid to say, housing charities in the main, are harping on about the lack of (affordable) homes and the need to, therefore, destroy the countryside to build more homes.

The truth of the matter is, however, that not more new homes are needed but old ones need to be made habitable and rented out to those that need them. But there is no money in for the boys and no backhanders for the politicians, central and local alike, and civil servants.

Only new home building attracts tax relief from government for the home builders and thus it is why also self-build is rather discouraged in Britain and it all has to be built by building companies. Self-builders also don't give nice little handouts to politicians and civil servants, whether in money or in kind; companies, on the other hand, who are being awarded, or hope to be awarded, such government contract, on the other hand, do give such incentives to those “helping” them.

A change of system is needed in order for all to live in decent homes that they can afford.

© 2014