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Could one of these six homes be the answer to the homeless crisis?

The four Dublin local authorities have opened a demonstration of modular housing.

AT THE END of last month more than 600 families were housed in either hotels or homeless accommodation.

That includes 1,275 children.

This figure has been creeping up each month this year, with €4.5 million being spent by Dublin’s local authorities to prevent families sleeping rough.

The policies being used now have been branded ‘unsustainable’, so could a form of quick, cheap, but high quality and comfortable housing be the answer?

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Yesterday the four councils – Dublin City, Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin – launched what they are calling called a “conversation” on modular housing, with a demonstration of six homes produced by six different Irish companies, inviting stakeholders such as NGOs and councillors to take a look around.

Modular homes can take a number of different forms, but are based around the principle of ‘stacking’ individual modules together to form a house. This means they can be produced off-site in factory conditions, and quickly assembled on-site.

Speaking to reporters, director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive Cathal Morgan said that when people first hear of modular housing, they might think of portable cabins out the back of a school.

“The industry has moved on light years,” he said.

Hotel rooms

Morgan noted that this form of housing provides better quality and is more cost effective than putting families and individuals in hotels, and allows a family unit to maintain a sense of normality “as opposed to being stuck in a single hotel room”.

Unused units could even be turned into student accommodation.

Speed is of the essence, he believes, with a hope that modular housing units could be rolled out as soon as mid-2016 if the project gets the go-ahead.

4/12/2014 Forums on Homelessness Crisis Cathal Morgan (right), pictured here with Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan. Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

It will face obstacles, such as finding suitable locations to house a small number of homes together, getting local communities on board, and ensuring an ‘exit strategy’ is in place to allow people to move on to more permanent housing.

And this will all cost money.

The council will be unable to place a cost on these units until the tendering process is complete.

It will depend on a range of factors, from the size and the number of storeys to the quality of fixtures.

However, Morgan gave a rough estimation that the more than €4 million spent on temporary accommodation for the first six months of this year could have been spent on hundreds of modular housing units.

Here’s a quick look at the six homes on show in East Wall on Dublin’s northside.

Skyclad set up a unit that on the surface looks like a traditional bungalow.

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This bones of this unit was set up two days after arriving off the truck, and a few more days to put on the finishing touches.

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Like other modular homes, some of the final touches were lightning fast; the wood flooring was laid within two hours, and the fittings took less than two hours.

IMG_6246 Source: Nicky Ryan/TheJournal.ie

Another traditional unit – complete with a house name as gaeilge – was by Mom Services Ltd.

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This model was an 80 meter square two-bedroom model.

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It showed off the capability to install a disabled bathroom.

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Portakabin’s offering was more in line with what people might expect a modular home to look like.

IMG_6304 Source: Nicky Ryan/TheJournal.ie

But inside it was a lot more comfortable than your usual portable cabin.

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There was even a small patio area outside

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Two ‘blocks’ of Spacebox’s demo – seen on either side of the centre module here – were lived in previously in the Netherlands.

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Uniquely the cooker and sink were in a self-contained unit that could be replaced if needed.

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Here’s a model of how the house slots together.

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Once off the truck Roankabin, was up in three days.

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Once the flooring was in, the worktops followed and the electrics and plumbing finalised.

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Most rooms in the modular homes on display could be set up in several bedroom configurations.

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The unit on display from the aptly named Modular Homes Ireland was, like many of the others, bright and airy.

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One half of the model housed the kitchen and living areas (with another seating area out of shot).

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The other half contained bedrooms and a bathroom that wouldn’t be out of a place in a traditional bricks-and-mortar home.

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Tom Teatum, a London-based architect who has been working with the four city councils on this demonstration, believes this could be one of the first examples of local authorities working to use modular housing as a solution to a housing those in need of emergency accommodation.

He explained that modular housing has been mostly developed in the area of student accommodation:

We’re now seeing a transfer across into the affordable housing market [...] and those finding it difficult to access housing.

Teatum said that the “team approach” the four Dublin councils are attempting to take is key, where the various stakeholders – the local authority, the architects, the manufacturers – are all brought in at very early stages.

Once off the ground, he believes most manufacturers on display could produce ten units within six to twelve weeks. The time saved compared to traditional building is “significant”, Teatum said.

Now take a look at some of these homes being constructed.

Source: Acmhainní Teoranta/YouTube

Read: The shipping container house that was built in three days over the weekend >

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About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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