Prefabricated homes back on the agenda for homeless families

Three- to four-storey temporary buildings could be erected in three months

Dublin City Council has studied a model used by Lewisham Borough Council in south London which last year completed a modular apartment complex providing 24 homes for families living in emergency accommodation

Prefabricated modular homes, which can be dismantled and reassembled at different locations, are being reconsidered for temporary accommodation for homeless Dublin families.

Dublin City Council had two years ago planned to use the prefabricated units to accommodate homeless people who had been living in hotels, but instead chose to use "traditional" terraced houses which were to be provided using a "rapid-build" planning and procurement system.

In April last year 22 rapid-build homes were completed in Ballymun and 130 more are expected to be finished at four other sites around the city in the coming weeks. The houses have taken a year and a half to build, have a 60-year lifespan and are being allocated to families on a permanent basis.

However Brendan Kenny, head of housing with the council, said there was a need to source temporary accommodation more quickly for families.


“What we are considering is the use of modular demountable housing that can be taken apart and moved from one site to another,” he said.

“Unlike the rapid-build housing, people would only be housed in them temporarily, they would not be permanent homes. They would be provided specifically as an alternative to family hubs, which have turned out to be no cheaper than hotels.”

Lifespan of 25-30 years

The modular units would have a 25-30 year life span and could be erected on site in three to four months. Costs have yet to be established as consideration of their use was “only in the early stages. We would need to go out to the market to establish that” Mr Kenny said.

The council was unlikely to choose units similar to the original prefabricated homes which were installed at a demonstration site in East Wall two years ago, before councillors approved the modular housing programme, as they “wouldn’t fully comply with today’s building regulations” Mr Kenny said.

Instead it was likely to choose buildings “three to four storeys high, similar to what we’ve seen used in London”.

Four-storey apartment blocks

The council has studied a model used by Lewisham Borough Council in south London which last year completed a modular apartment complex, providing 24 homes for families living in emergency accommodation.

The four-storey apartment blocks on Lewisham High Street were built in 12 weeks at a cost of about £150,000 per apartment.

The council is considering procuring approximately 55 units for the temporary housing project. The council would not select sites which were designated for permanent housing, such as O’Devaney Gardens and St Michael’s Estate, Mr Kenny said. “Even though these are temporary and demountable units people always have the fear that temporary will become permanent.”

The city council has planned housing developments for “almost every site” in its ownership Mr Kenny said. “It’s possible we may have to look outside the city area for a site for this project.”

The three other Dublin local authorities – Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council and Fingal – have yet to produce any rapid-build homes, although schemes are under construction.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times