Meanwhile, can the housing shortage be contained?
The western world seems to be hit by a housing affordability crisis. Whether it’s in Europe, Australia, or the USA, everywhere there seems to be a shortage in housing supply. NIMBY pressure, land-use regulations and restrictive zoning seem to block home builders from quickly satisfying demand. Every city is struggling with the same issues: trying to combine housing affordability while keeping the city liveable and recognizable for the current inhabitants.
Regardless of how we’ll try to cut this Gordian knot, getting the necessary permits and constructing the buildings needed to fix this shortage permanently will take some time. Time the people desperately trying to find an affordable house don’t have. There is only one conclusion: we need more homes, and we need them now!
And that’s what QED is trying to do: providing quality, affordable rental homes and delivering them faster than the traditional industry can.
QED is a meanwhile housing development specialist. Traditionally, a meanwhile usage program consists of pop-up shops or bars that make the place feel vibrant again, bridging the time until a more permanent form of use for the site is decided on. A meanwhile housing program goes even further and already installs movable, and reusable homes on the plot before acquiring a permanent permit.
Imagery courtesy QEDproperty
Temporary housing constructions need to be easy to (re)assemble and transport. Modular construction, where the construction of the units happens in a factory instead of on-site, is a natural fit for this kind of development, and shipping containers, because of the ease of transport, are often considered as a basic building block of such a temporary construction project. Buildings constructed out of containers might sound like an inferior novelty, but actually, it’s an accepted architectural sub-genre with examples all over the world.
QED was founded in 1985 and started as a brownfield developer. The housing crisis inspired them to also focus on providing residential meanwhile housing. To build the solution, they created a joint venture together with Isospaces, a container conversion specialist, called Cargotek.
🕵️♀️ Who else?
Regulators, motivated by a frustrated constituency demanding affordable housing are opening up the possibility for temporary housing to be deployed in their cities. As a result, similar offerings are being deployed elsewhere. Some of the most interesting we could find are Modomo, with meanwhile project in Holland and the UK. The Estonian developer Kodasema, who created Koda Park in the Netherlands as a showcase for a temporary development with both commercial as residential use.
Zed factory’s Zedpods are a solution leveraging parking lots to fight the housing supply shortage. A Zedpod is designed to be built on top of an existing parking lot and can be disassembled whenever it isn’t needed anymore.
The social gain of being able to quickly add affordable housing supply and tackling the housing crisis seems pretty clear, but the fact that it’s temporary will also allow more innovative and bolder experiments and evoke less resistance from the existing neighboring community.
The optimization of decommissioning and commissioning costs will accelerate development in circular building technology, as it provides shorter-feedback loops and quicker ROI compared to the traditional building industry.
👎 Why not?
Having to resort to temporary housing schemes can be a short-term emergency solution to an acute problem, but it shouldn’t prevent society to investigate why the imbalance between supply and demand on the housing market was there in the first place.
While meanwhile housing might have a positive impact on the rental market, it doesn’t affect the rising prices for people who want to buy real estate.
As the saying goes: Nothing is more permanent than a temporary solution. It’s very hard for people to have to leave their house, even if the time was agreed on in advance. There have already been “meanwhile housing projects” that have been so successful that they transitioned to a permanently permitted construction retroactively. Interesting for the inhabitants, but these kinds of examples could inspire bad actors to use the meanwhile route to evade the more comprehensive city zoning and permits route.
📚 Further reading?
Meanwhile housing version 1.0.