Take a look inside new ‘pod’ homes for the homeless set to be rolled out in Cambs

PUBLISHED: 10:24 22 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:24 22 July 2020

The prototype ‘pod’ homes for the homeless which are set to be rolled out across Cambridge. Picture: Ben Hatton/LDRS

The prototype ‘pod’ homes for the homeless which are set to be rolled out across Cambridge. Picture: Ben Hatton/LDRS

Ben Hatton/LDRS

A prototype ‘pod’ house for Cambridge’s homeless community has been unveiled, with 16 of them set to be rolled out across the city.

The prototype ‘pod’ homes for the homeless which are set to be rolled out across Cambridge. Picture: Ben Hatton/LDRS The prototype ‘pod’ homes for the homeless which are set to be rolled out across Cambridge. Picture: Ben Hatton/LDRS

The modular homes have been described as “pods” owing to their small size and easy mobility.

Developer Hill has said it will gift 16 of the one-bedroom portable homes to Cambridge, with management provided by the city council and an as-yet unannounced but established provider of homelessness support services in the city.

Cambridge City Council plans to host the units on land it owns across the city, with two sites already selected for the first 10 units.

Planning applications have been submitted for four modular homes off Dundee Close in East Chesterton, and six off Crowland Way in King’s Hedges.

The units are envisioned as providing temporary homes for those with a history of homelessness, acting as a kind of middle-step for those transitioning either from living on the streets, in a hostel or another support service prior to being found longer-term accommodation.

The city council has suggested tenants could stay for around two years in some cases, although no firm time constraints have been set.

The scheme is part of Hill’s Foundation 200 initiative. The housebuilder is marking its twentieth anniversary by providing 200 of the mini temporary homes nationally, at no cost to the authorities and homelessness support providers which take them on.

The 16 units will require planning permission before they can be installed in any location across the city, but the first tenants could be in by around October if all goes according to plan.

The prototype ‘pod’ homes for the homeless which are set to be rolled out across Cambridge. Picture: Ben Hatton/LDRS The prototype ‘pod’ homes for the homeless which are set to be rolled out across Cambridge. Picture: Ben Hatton/LDRS

Hill said the units have been designed with input from specialists and those with lived experience of homelessness to meet the needs of future occupiers.

The temporary homes have one bedroom, one bathroom, and a joint kitchen and living area, and they will come fully furnished, from white goods to cutlery.

Hill’s project’s director, Emma Fletcher, said: “It’s a complete turnkey solution. It comes with everything from toothbrush holder through to crockery.

“We have a sofa with a nice fleecy blanket so you can curl up and watch television, we have got two sets of duvet sets, we have got a full set of clothing”.

The prototype ‘pod’ homes for the homeless which are set to be rolled out across Cambridge. Picture: Ben Hatton/LDRS The prototype ‘pod’ homes for the homeless which are set to be rolled out across Cambridge. Picture: Ben Hatton/LDRS

Some councillors raised concerns at a public committee in January that the homes fall below the council’s minimum space standards.

Hill has said each unit is around 24 square metres. The city council would usually insist that new one-bedroom properties have 37 square metres of internal floorspace.

Ms Fletcher said the size has been dictated by two factors.

The design is deliberately for one person, both in terms of the layout of the bedroom and living area, to avoid so-called cuckooing, which is where another individual or group moves into the home of a vulnerable person,and their home is then taken over, often for nefarious purposes.

The layout is designed to dis-incentivise another person moving in.

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For easy mobility, the homes cannot be any wider and still be transportable without a police escort for an unusually large load.

Another project by Allia, New Meaning and Jimmy’s for six similar units of a similar size and for a similar purpose were approved last year and installed in Cambridge in May.

Hill said the homes will be built in a British factory and delivered on the back of a lorry.

Ms Fletcher said the design is “fantastic” and that they are “the best homes that Hill are producing” in terms of their design and quality standards, exceeding building regulations.

Each units cost around £75,000 to £80,000.

Ms Fletcher said: “Today we are working alongside the city council in terms of tackling the homelessness that has been particularly highlighted by the Covid situation.

“We are gifting 16 homes to the city council and working with them as well to roll out further homes that can be provided for those in temporary accommodation in the city.”

In 2017 Cambridge City Council partnered with the housebuilding company to make the Cambridge Investment Partnership, which is currently involved in creating hundreds of affordable homes across the city.

Richard Johnson said the plan is part of wider efforts to address homelessness, which he said are even more pertinent now owing to the Covid-19 crisis.

He said: “We are demonstrating, in partnership with Hill, our commitment to helping support those who have previously been on the streets, who have previously been rough sleeping, into accommodation that will help them in their journey in breaking the cycle of homelessness, with a view to them potentially holding down a more sustainable housing tenancy”.

Addressing concerns around lowering council space standards for those who have been homeless, Cllr Johnson rejected the notion of unfair treatment.

He pointed to Hill’s efforts of including specialists and those with experience of homelessness in the design, and he said for those who have found the usual pathways to achieving stable housing have not worked, such a design may be the right option.

“Having something that is tailored to their needs may actually be a better outcome for that person in terms of supporting them with their journey and turning their lives around and allowing them the chance to live in, for example, a more spatial property such as council housing or in the private rented sector,” he said.

Cambridge City Council launched its “Next Steps” programme on July 20.

The programme is aimed at tackling homelessness in the city by providing the series of new portable homes and by appealing for support from land and property owners.

The council is appealing to landlords with empty accommodation and landowners with land which could be suitable for the modular homes “to play a part in alleviating the ongoing housing crisis in Cambridge”.

The council said it is looking for offers of one-bedroom or shared rental accommodation which will be available for a minimum of six months, or unoccupied or under-occupied land where “Next Step homes” can be installed.

The council said it can pay for accommodation up-front and will underwrite any damages caused by new tenants.

The council has committed to helping those temporarily housed in the pandemic into longer-term accommodation.

Any empty sites should be a minimum of 9m x 5m in size. Those with suitable land or properties can contact the council on 01223 457919 or via housingdevelopment@cambridge.gov.uk


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