An award-winning scheme to provide 5 highly energy efficient homes for homeless people in Swansea
These homes were built to Passivhaus standards of energy efficiency, comfort and quality. The homes are highly sustainable and will improve the lives of the tenants that live in them.
Housing the homeless in Swansea
The More Homes team at Swansea Council won the coveted prize for ‘Best Housing Story’ at the Welsh Housing Awards 2022 for this particular project. The team was commended for going above and beyond to make a positive difference in their community.
The scheme is part of a local drive to tackle homelessness. In total, we built 3 x Haus4One and 2 x Haus4Two modular homes for Swansea Council at our offsite factory in Norwich using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).
A solution to homelessness in Swansea
In the summer of 2020, Welsh Government issued new guidance to local authorities that set a requirement to produce ‘Phase 2 Transition Plans’. The fundamental aim was to ensure that everyone brought into emergency temporary accommodation during the pandemic was supported into long-term self-contained accommodation. This ultimately led to the development of an innovative model for rapid rehousing.
The focus was on the provision of one bed accommodation that could be provided as quickly as possible, and there was a strong focus on using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). Swansea Council Housing team quickly assessed a range of options, looking for buildings to acquire and convert, and sites that could accommodate factory made homes, as this was deemed to be the fastest approach to providing the much-needed accommodation. Bryn House was an empty disused former education centre, and the Team quickly acquired the site with the view of converting the main house into four flats and creating additional temporary accommodation using the factory-made eco-conscious Haus4 modular homes on the site of a demountable building in the grounds.
Welsh Government in response to the pandemic, issued emergency powers for Permitted Development Rights to be used for this purpose on land owned or leased by the Council. Using these powers, the conversion work was able to start straight away.
The benefits of offsite manufacturing
Partnership working was crucial. The homes were constructed at our offsite factory in Norwich, Norfolk. They were brought to site fully constructed, including pre-fitted kitchens and bathrooms and craned in. The scheme was enabled with the help of Welsh Government funding. It is an example of an innovative approach bringing an empty building back into use for housing, alongside the use of modern construction methods.
Delivering this scheme as an emergency response to the pandemic was a huge challenge in overcoming obstacles and a remarkable example of what can be achieved by working differently, working in partnerships, pulling together and being able to operate outside of the normal planning constraints and timescales. The emergency nature of this project meant it was mobilised quickly, moving and prioritising staff resources to ensure delivery. The team worked closely with the Planning Officer to ensure that the scheme was not contrary to any planning or placemaking policy, and they knew that full planning permission would be required 12 months after occupancy.
People experiencing homelessness have reported that extended periods in temporary accommodation, especially Bed and Breakfast accommodation has a negative effect on their health and wellbeing and leads to escalating needs and negative outcomes. This development brings clear benefits to the community. One resident referred through the Rapid Rehousing route and offered a tenancy at Bryn House stated that the difference it has made to him by having a safe and secure home in a property he can be proud of has been profound. It has given him the stability he needed to move forward and start to look for work again.
Outcomes and achievements
The scheme is now complete and is fully occupied. The main house conversion was completed in December 2021 and comprises two ground floor accessible flats, and two first floor flats, which have been used to house people from temporary accommodation.
The pods are used to move people out of Bed and Breakfast accommodation, into more suitable temporary accommodation, where their needs can be assessed before moving into permanent accommodation. An additional pod was purchased and used as an office and a space for residents to meet support workers or other agencies where they can access timely support. This can also be used as an additional accommodation unit if required.
The main house is a modern, bright and spacious development and the grounds have been landscaped to provide much needed outdoor space. The patio and flats have views over Swansea Bay and the garden area can be accessed via a ramp. The house has two ‘swift bricks’ to encourage nesting birds. The project has been a major success in terms of providing a defined housing need using innovative methods to create a benefit for the local community.