News Item

Posted: 16th November
By: rlf

Housing news: return of the prefabs

In housing news, rising house prices and changes to the benefits system have resulted in rent becoming too expensive for many Londoners. This is leading to an increasing number of people living in shared hostels, or on the streets.

To tackle the problem, YMCA London South West and architectural firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners joined forces to find a potential solution.

Following three years in development, they finally launched their sustainable housing solution: the Y:Cube.

The Y:Cube

Y:Cubes are tiny sustainable, prefabricated homes, and the new development in Mitcham consists of 36 of them.

Each 26sqm unit cost £30,000 to make. They were built and assembled off-site in a factory and then once assembled, were dropped into place by a crane. This mitigated the cost and time associated with running a conventional bricks-and-mortar building site.

The units were constructed from eco-efficient materials such as renewable timber. And thanks to the precision construction process that involved large amounts of insulation, they cost very little to heat.

The units are also “plug and play,” meaning that they were outfitted to be quickly and easily hooked up to utilities once installed on site.

A cost effective solution?

The YMCA developed Y:Cube units to provide ‘move on’ homes for young people who have been staying in their hostels, but cannot afford the jump in price that moving into the private rental sector would entail.

The weekly rent for a Y:Cube is set at £145 a week. That’s £628 a month. This is 65% of market rent in the area. To put it in perspective, looking at London rental costs as a whole, a single room in the capital will soon be comparable to renting an entire Y:Cube flat.


Today, when housing news is all about the shortage of land and lack of building that is driving up property prices, Y:Cube developments might just be our saviour. Because of how quickly the cubes can be installed and uninstalled (two weeks) they could, in theory, be put up on land which is free for a few years at a time, like brownfield sites waiting to be developed.

However, it’s important to note that this is still a very temporary solution, and is only intended as one. We still need a long-term solution to the lack of affordable homes in this country, particularly in London.

While it may not have super powers that will solve the housing crisis entirely, the Y:Cube could certainly offer an innovative and much needed alternative model of housing and, more importantly, an alternative way of thinking about housing.