Tiny homes – the future of housing?


Small but mighty, this modular development may go some way in solving Bristol’s housing crisis

As Bristol continues to face multiple challenges surrounding affordable housing and homelessness, one housing association thinks they might have the answer. United Communities, who manage over 1,800 homes in the wider Bristol area and Swindon, have designed the LaunchPad project – a collection of 31 portable homes located at the council car park at the bottom of Alexandra Park in Fishponds that was approved by city councillors on March 13.

The LaunchPad project is a partnership between United Communities, 1625 Independent People (who offer supported housing to those aged between 16–25), University of Bristol Students Union and Bristol City Council, with the support of the property industry charity LandAid. This pioneering development will contain 31 one-bedroom studio units, clad to look like stacked shipping containers, and will offer shared communal spaces such as a laundry space, bin store and secure bike parking. Tenants at the development will not be able to own a car, but will have access to university facilities and support.

The development aims to bring together a diverse group of young people in high-quality, affordable accommodation – meeting a vital need in the city. The concept is that university students will live alongside other young key workers, such as nurses and teachers, as well as young people who are moving on from 1625 Independent People-supported housing. United Communities see LaunchPad as an opportunity to create a ‘one city’ approach that brings communities together in a positive way.

However, there are some concerns about the development. Each of the studio units will only have a footprint of 22 square metres – which does not meet the government standards for ensuring new homes provide enough space. Councillor Olly Mead, who represents Horfield, has stated that developers should not take the planning approval as a green light for submitting plans for residential developments that do not meet national space standards. However, he is among eight councillors who approved the portable housing development, and commented in an article in The Bristol Post that “This is an opportunity to find out how modular buildings work.”

This is one of the first developments to come out of the Bristol Housing Festival, an innovative, five-year project aiming to change the way in which affordable housing is delivered in the city. Once the development is in place, it will become a temporary home for key workers, care leavers and students facing financial hardship. The homes will be assembled from prefabricated units, and each tenant will be able to stay for a maximum of two years. Because of this short time scale, a planning officer has stated that it is not appropriate to apply the government sizing standards, due to the short-term nature of the development. Following this, the council is considering relaxing space standards for emergency short-term housing in certain circumstances.

Bristol Communities has a 10-year lease on the site, which the council decided was surplus to requirements. After this point, the development can be relocated.

The building of LaunchPad is expected to start in September.

Image credit: The Bristol Post

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