A shortage of affordable housing in London has led to an increase in the number of homeless people on city streets, as young people who lose their supported accommodation benefits when securing full-time employment often can not afford deposits for affordable flat rentals.
Teaming up with the Waltham Forest Council, the Forest Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in East London has found a way to respond to the need for transitional housing by converting recycled shipping containers into sustainable single-person dwellings that can be delivered to any site. Dubbed mYPad, the project makes the homes available to those who are newly employed at a rental price of £75 per week, which is approximately 30% of the local minimum wage pay rate, until they can save the necessary deposits for long-term rentals.
The first two prototype mYPad units were delivered last June and have been tested by staff and visitors, including Councillor Richard Sweden, Mayor of Waltham Forest, and Councillor Paul Douglas, who stayed overnight in one on March 21, 2013. “It was an extremely comfortable night’s sleep,” said Mayor Sweden. “They are very cosy units and a clever way of meeting a real need that lots of young people face.”
“It’s really comfortable,” said Forest YMCA Chief Executive, Timothy Pain, in an April 11, 2013 interview with BBC London 94.9. “I lived in one for three weeks as part of our nine months testing programme through British summer and British winter to make sure that it wasn’t like a fridge in the winter and like an oven in the summer. It’s got a shower, it’s got a toilet and it’s got a sink. We work with a contractor for the Ministry of Defence, so that it’s vandal-proof and sustainable.”
Worcestershire-based architectural firm, Robert Kilgour & Associates, has contributed interior design for the mYPads, while design firm, Essence Design, is creating the exterior design and branding for the homes. Initial plans are for the mYPads to be located on two sites in East London.
“We are very pleased with the coverage the BBC have given the mYPads,” said Mr. Pain. “It’s allowed us to introduce the mYPad concept to a wider audience and in turn show that there is a credible solution to the affordable housing crisis.”
A faith-based charity that has been operating for more than forty years, Forest YMCA operates of the United Kingdom’s largest “direct-access” hostels for the homeless and is one of North East London’s biggest Third Sector organizations. A staff of 160 people provides assistance to young people to help them integrate into society and develop independent lifestyles by providing them with education, training, and employment. Forest YMCA is accepting donations for mYPads and other projects through JustGiving.com.
“Housing is an incredibly important priority for the Council, and one we take very seriously,” said Mayor Sweden. “This sort of innovative approach gives young people a chance to move from semi-independent accommodation to their own self-contained living space. Forest YMCA should be commended for taking this project forward.”