Howard Chapman, Buildingtalk Editor visits the Y:Cube affordable housing development pilot project at Mitcham, in the borough of Merton, south London, that demonstrates how homes can be built in the capital for around £50k. This important new ‘not-for-profit’ model for house building in the future can be replicated throughout the UK and offer a significant solution to our growing housing crisis.
YMCA is the world’s oldest and largest youth charity. The Y:Cube has been created by YMCA London South West in partnership with architecture practice Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, project manager Aecom, and UK contractor SIG Plc Building Systems.
The pilot project, opened recently in Mitcham, is a 36-apartment off-site manufactured housing project for single people in housing need, designed as move-on accommodation for people leaving homelessness hostels and supported housing schemes. The factory-built units were combined to create an attractive development overlooking a park, close to transport links and other emenities.
Y:Cube offers high-quality accommodation using quick, cost-effective volumetric technology that includes exceptional insulation, daylight and acoustics. Y:Cube developments can also reduce heating costs by incorporating mini ‘district’ renewable power solutions, in this pilot by utilising solar power.
Simon Tanner, head of Y-Cube development at YMCA London South West (LSW): “Build costs at Merton were just over £52,000 per flat, and the apartments are being rented out at 65 per cent of the market rate in the area, plus tenants save on energy costs. But we aim to reduce build costs below £50,000 per unit with more economies of scale and productivity improvements as we gain experience, build more units and increase volume through the factory production line”.
The successful launch of Y:Cube has created enormous interest from across the UK including Cardiff, Bristol, Milton Keynes, Oxford and Southport. It could also provide solutions to the shortage key-worker accommodation in the National Health and other situations. Y:Cube schemes can be developed on land around the country made available through local authorities and utilising the thousands of urban brownfield sites coming on stream via infrastructure developments and ‘change of use’ on old industrial or commercial properties.
Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning: “It’s inspiring to see innovative developments like this that shows what can be achieved with vision and dedication, and I know these apartments have already got the sign of approval form those who are about to call them home”.
Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Land: “This innovative scheme aims to give young people the chance to rent their own home in the capital at an accessible price. I hope the site is the first of many more to come across London.”
Y:Cube construction challenges traditional housebuilding that mainly offers increasingly expensive solutions that are profitable to the big house builders but are out of reach for millions of people looking for the first home of their own.
Watch the video below to see how the Y:Cube development in Mitcham was constructed and hear from tenants about the impact that this affordable housing has had on their lives.