West Lothian Council rules out modular solution to homelessness crisis
A number of housing options aimed at providing affordable solutions to help tackle homelessness in West Lothian have been considered by the council, with a modular housing option ruled out.
So-called ‘Quick Build Solutions’ use cabin/container and modular construction for both temporary and permanent housing. Similar housing is already used in other areas of Scotland and across the UK.
Officers from West Lothian Council housing and property services have looked at these as potential options in an effort to help tackle homelessness locally.
A report to Council Executive set out the work undertaken to consider quick build solutions, including the use of containers/cabins by the council to provide temporary accommodation and to assist with reducing the use of B&B/Hotels accommodation.
A large-scale modular housing programme has recently been constructed in Ayrshire to provide permanent housing, while the Scottish Government has partially funded a £17 million project to provide over 100 modular homes in Kilmarnock.
Council officers looked at similar developments in other areas of Scotland, and liaised with suppliers and construction companies to look at the cost of such projects. Officers recommended that this is not a concept that is worth further consideration for the following reasons:
- The construction costs are similar to more traditional homes and officers concluded that there is no cost advantage of using cabin or container housing for homeless accommodation
- Officers confirmed that there is no additional funding from the Scottish Government to develop quick build solutions
- Challenges such as community resistance to housing developments
- Availability of suitable sites
Andrew McGuire, vice chair of the Housing Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel, said: “The pressures placed on councils due to homelessness presentations is immense and we are leaving no stone unturned in terms of how we can help people and provide accommodation - both permanent and temporary accommodation. Key to this is funding and significant levels of funding are required to build temporary and permanent homes for people in need.
“These quick build developments are certainly worth looking at and they are in place elsewhere in Scotland, but I think it is clear from the work that officers have done that this type of accommodation isn’t right for us at this time. It’s not more cost effective to build these homes compared to traditional homes, and we have no access to additional funding to build these types of homes.
“Therefore we wouldn’t be able to provide more homes, more quickly which is our main aim. So we will continue to try and find an alternative solution to this important issue.”
A motion was agreed by the council to develop a short life working group to consider innovative options for quick build housing in West Lothian which can be introduced speedily and cost effective to help reduce the number of homeless applications who are required to be accommodated in hotel and bed and breakfasts. The group will consist of one Labour councillor, one SNP councillor and one Conservative councillor, along with council officers.