Can ‘meanwhile development’ put a stopper in the housing crisis?

A new house design brings some of the hottest topics in housing – micro living, modular construction and sustainability – together under one roof. However, this 25m2 home, which can be assembled in as little as a day, also represents a possible solution to the housing crisis.

The idea of ‘meanwhile development’ – where temporary housing is erected on vacant land until the public needs it for other purposes – is gaining traction in UK.

The UK’s first ‘popup village’ appeared in Southeast London in March last year, when Lewisham Council spent around £4.3 million on a temporary cluster of 24 homes and 880 square metres of business space. The buildings were designed to be picked up and moved at a later date, putting vacant brownfield land to good use while the council finalised longer-term projects.

Now an Estonian developer has launched a new house design so more dormant land can be utilised by those in need of a home.

Estonian developer Kodasema launched its KODA house design in the UK at the BRE Innovation Park yesterday (29 June). KODA aims to shake up the UK and international property markets by providing a multi-purpose, sustainable structure that can be erected on site for as little as £150,000.

“The simple yet effective design could help alleviate the pressures of the housing crisis on local authorities, providing temporary homes or workspaces on empty sites,” said John O’Brien, Associate Director for Construction Innovation. “This trend of short-term use of derelict land, which can be left untouched for years, even during the planning stages, is becoming more common, especially in London.”

Already in-use across Holland and Estonia, KODA addresses a gap in the market for ‘meanwhile planning’ situations using its ‘lift and shift’ technology.

The product has been designed around mobility. The building measures just under four metres wide and high – so it can be transported around Europe, with the exclusion of Ireland, without an escort.

Without the need for extensive digging or laying foundations, the building can be assembled relatively cheaply in less than a working day.

KODA has been designed to allow stacking, with multi-storey modules scheduled for release in 2018. Born in Estonia, where temperatures plunge to minus 40 degrees in winter, the sustainable model has been road-tested to withstand the harshest conditions and has the same life expectancy as a traditional house.

“KODA would provide a cost-effective option to house those on the waiting list for affordable accommodation or offer temporary rental apartments for young professionals, students and those looking to downsize,” said O’Brien.

“On a wider point, it could also be the perfect housing solution for those that move regularly for their jobs and require medium term tenancies in cities across the UK,” he said. “You could pack your suitcase and move from KODA to KODA and be in a familiar environment in another town or city with all the usual amenities.”

However, while the design offers a panacea to the housing shortage, it is not a complete solution. First time buyers would still struggle to afford one, as it would be near impossible to raise a mortgage on the property.

The factory currently only produces one KODA house a week, although production can easily be scaled up to match demand.

While the design makes full use of its space, at just 25 square metres it doesn’t have much to work with. While this would suit a young person who travels light, couples and hoarders will struggle with the lack of storage.

However, the UK has not built enough homes for decades and the housing crisis is likely to rage on for the foreseeable future. Popup homes offer an elegant solution for the meanwhile…

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