Cornwall’s first 15 ‘micro homes’ given planning permission as Council continues to tackle housing crisis

Just months after entering into a landmark deal to buy SoloHaus ‘micro homes’ to help tackle Cornwall’s housing crisis, plans to deploy the first 15 on Council-owned land at Old County Hall in Truro have been given the go ahead. Residents are expected to move into their new homes in early July.

A living room with a table, chairs and sofa

The innovative SoloHaus scheme, the first of its kind in the South West, will build on the success of the Council’s Bunkabin sites and other temporary accommodation projects by providing homes for local people who are ready to move on from emergency accommodation to the second stage of their journey out of homelessness and rough sleeping.

Tackling current housing pressures is a top priority for the Council.  As well as providing modular homes to provide temporary and emergency accommodation, the authority is also continuing work to:   

  • Buy existing homes to use as social housing      
  • Build more Council houses  for local people to rent or buy  
  • Support the provision of affordable homes by housing associations for local people to rent or buy      
  • Ensure sites deliver affordable housing through the planning process     
  • Unlock the potential for town centres to be regenerated to provide more housing     
  • Support community-led organisations that want to deliver their own homes     
  • Offer loans to bring empty homes back into use 
  • Enable communities to stop new builds being snapped up by would be second homeowners.

Announcing details of the SoloHaus scheme, Olly Monk, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for housing and planning, said: “We are facing a serious and escalating housing crisis in Cornwall and are taking direct action to provide homes for people that need our help.

“These modular SoloHaus homes, which are ready to be dropped onto sites with all fixtures and fittings included, are an evolution of the temporary cabin-style emergency accommodation that we provided in Truro, Penzance and Camborne to support vulnerable people during the pandemic.

“SoloHaus has been designed so they can be deployed equally well as either permanent homes or for shorter periods for use on what we call ‘meanwhile sites’ awaiting redevelopment. This means that they can be simply disconnected from services, lifted by crane and moved to another site. This is exactly what we’ll be doing at the Old County Hall site in the future as it’s scheduled for wider redevelopment in the coming years.”

Deploying this type of product means that the Council can make use of many more parcels of land in its ownership to help address the housing crisis.

“The Old County Hall site will provide excellent quality “move on” housing for single people currently in temporary or emergency accommodation who would otherwise be homeless – helping these residents to stay in Cornwall and with the security of knowing the home is theirs until they find a permanent home” said Councillor Monk

“My sincere thanks go to everyone in the team that has worked so hard to make this – and our other similar initiatives – a reality.”

29 of the modular homes were delivered to a temporary storage facility in Newquay by the Hill Group last Autumn. Since then the Council has bought a further 50 of the micro homes – making a total of 79 self-contained one bedroom homes for use by people in urgent housing need in Cornwall.

As well as the 15 at Old County Hall, a planning application has been submitted for a small site in Penryn, and schemes are being worked up in both Penzance and Newquay. Further sites will then follow in other parts of Cornwall over the coming months.

The homes have been designed by The Hill Group with the help of leading homelessness charities in the Cambridge area to provide a safe, secure, comfortable and independent place to stay for people who are homeless or have been homeless in the recent past. The properties are single-storey fully self-contained homes with kitchen, living and dining area, bedroom and bathroom and arrive fully furnished, with everything necessary for a homeless person to move into the same day, right down to knives and forks and bedlinen!

Front of a house with a door and window

The 15 homes at Old County Hall site are expected to remain in place for around three years, after which the site is due for regeneration. The homes will then be moved to a new location.

Photo of a kitchen with a sink, cupboards, kettle and microwave

The site will be managed by Cornwall Housing, with each tenant receiving additional support as required to help them to find a regular source of income and a more permanent home. The Council will also be providing a management and support space in a former Council office building on the site. 24/7 security will also be provided for at least the first 12 months.

“Buying and deploying permanent quality modular homes such as these will allow us to put homes in key locations throughout the Duchy” said Councillor Monk. “This is about us recognising that there are people in our communities that really need our help and providing them with a safe, secure home that can be deployed quickly.”

“I am delighted that we have been able to gain the necessary permissions to move forward with this first site so soon after agreeing the landmark deal with The Hill Group. I would like to thank local Cornwall Councillor Rob Nolan and local residents for the positive way in which they have worked with us to develop this scheme and look forward to welcoming the first residents into their new homes.”

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