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Inside London's pod homes
Photograph: Simon Harvey

See inside London’s first pod homes for the homeless

33 modular houses with £5-a-week running costs have been built in Haringey

Written by
Chiara Wilkinson
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A new modular housing project has arrived in Haringey to help London’s rough sleepers – and, honestly, the resulting pods look excellent. 

Named the ‘SoloHaus modular solution’, 33 homes have been built on disused, council-owned land at Ermine Road, Tottenham. With funding help from the Greater London Authority, the project is run by Haringey Council and Hill Group, who donated half of the homes as part of a £15m commitment to provide a total of 200 units over the next five years. 

Time Out went to the site to have a nosy around and we were impressed. Although resembling a grey shipping container from the outside, step inside and you’ll find the pods are much nicer than many of the dingy London rentals you'd find on Rightmove. 

The furnishings are all very IKEA and everything feels extremely new. At around 24 square meters in size, the homes have a bright living area fully furnished with a sofa, coffee table, kitchenette with crockery and equipment, and a desk slash eating area.

pods
Photograph: Time Out / Chiara Wilkinson

There’s a large storage cupboard, complete with a washing machine and a clothes horse, and a separate bathroom with a shower, toilet, and sink. The bedroom, also separate, has a single bed with bedding, a wardrobe with clothes and shoes, a chest of drawers, a bedside table and plugs. Also on site is an office where residents can access support from the council’s homeless programme – so there’s pretty much everything you’d need to get you going. 

pod bedrooms
Photograph: Time Out / Chiara Wilkinson

The pods were designed to meet future housing standards and to be as energy-efficient and cost effective as possible. They don’t use gas and are operated with air source heat pumps and electric-powered air, costing around a fiver per week to run. Residents are expected to make a contribution to bills when they can, to encourage them to adjust to typical renting costs. 

Hill Group said that each pod home cost around £80,000 overall – including delivery, building, water, energy, and land. They’re currently in dialogue with other areas in London to build more. 

pod kitchen
Photograph: Time Out / Chiara Wilkinson

Now that Everyone In – the government scheme that helped rough sleepers off the streets and into hotels at the start of the pandemic – has started to wind down, the SoloHaus project has come at a particularly important time for the city. ‘Everyone In during the pandemic not only saved lives, it also transformed lives,’ said Deputy Mayor of London, Tom Copley. ‘This is the next stage of help for some of the most vulnerable.’

Haringey council expects residents to stay in the SoloHaus pods for around two years. They will theoretically provide a more stable base than the streets, hostels or shelters, allowing rough sleepers to eventually move onto permanent accommodation. ‘This raises the bar for London’s homelessness response,’ said Gill Taylor, the council’s Head of Service and Strategic Lead for Homelessness, to Time Out. ‘Rough sleepers deserve quality housing like this, and we’re currently exploring other sites in the borough to build more.’ 

Model of SoloHaus modular homes
Photograph: Simon Harvey / Salvation Army

If all goes to plan, the first resident will move into the Ermine Road pods in a few weeks, by the start of November. They’ll be available for single people over the age of 18 who have specifically experienced rough sleeping, and will be allocated through a council assessment process that discusses the person’s future hopes and how they ended up homeless. 

While the 33 modular homes are nowhere near enough to tackle the scale of London’s homelessness right now, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. And with rising energy costs, colder nights, and the end of the uplift to universal credit and furlough, there’s a real worry that the capital is about to see a return to its pre-pandemic levels of rough sleeping. If that is the case, then innovative schemes like this are vital. Hopefully the rest of London will feel inspired enough to follow in Haringey’s footsteps. 

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