SoloHaus ‘micro-homes’ in Truro ready for residents as Cornwall Council continues to tackle housing crisis

Cornwall’s ground-breaking modular homes site at Old County Hall in Truro – the first SoloHaus scheme in the South West – has been formally handed over to Cornwall Council. Designed to help tackle the county’s housing crisis, the first of the 15 residents are expected to move into their new homes before Christmas.

“This is a real red-letter day for Cornwall Council” said Olly Monk, the Council’s portfolio holder for housing and planning. “We know that the lack of affordable accommodation is affecting all types of households, including working families, couples and singles. Many people are struggling to find somewhere to live, with a sharp increase in the number of single men and women rough sleeping or sleeping in cars and vans.

“We all need and deserve somewhere to live and call home. We are taking direct action to tackle the serious and escalating housing crisis facing us in Cornwall by providing homes for people that need our help.  These modular SoloHaus homes 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”.

Tackling current housing pressures is a top priority for the Council.  The impact of the Covid pandemic, the reduction in the number of privately rented homes (due to increased demand for holiday accommodation), rising rental costs and the recent general property boom have created a “perfect storm” in the local housing market.

There are currently over 730 households either living in temporary or emergency accommodation across the county, with more than 330 single people in need of housing.  People can find themselves homeless and in need of housing assistance from the Council for many reasons, including family or relationship breakdown, people fleeing domestic violence, eviction from a privately rented home (including ‘no fault’ evictions), loss of income/employment, bereavement, significant changes to mental or physical health, or struggling to cope with life outside the armed forces.

Despite the success of existing approaches to tackling the crisis, which includes prevention services, high street outreach, and emergency and longer-term accommodation-based provision, there remains an acute and urgent need for temporary accommodation in Cornwall.

Following a landmark deal with award-winning housebuilder The Hill Group, Cornwall Council has bought 79 SoloHaus homes, helping to alleviate the acute housing pressures in the area. The SoloHaus are intended to provide secure, comfortable homes as follow-on accommodation to local people as they progress out of emergency housing, helping them regain their independence.

Designed by Hill and manufactured by their business partner Volumetric Modular Ltd, alongside the help of leading homelessness charities, SoloHaus homes are purpose-built, self-contained homes with a kitchen, living and dining area, a bedroom, and a bathroom. The homes arrive fully furnished, with everything necessary for residents to move into straight away, including white goods, cutlery, and bed linen.

Constructed by CORMAC Ltd and using this modular homes solution, the Old County Hall site is the first of a programme of Cornwall Council developed ‘move on’ sites which will provide safe and secure homes for people in urgent housing need. Work is currently taking place to provide a further 10 modular homes at the former Cowlins Mill in Pool, with planning applications also underway for sites in Penryn, Newquay, and Penzance.

Tom Hill, Regional Director of The Hill Group: “We are proud to be working in partnership with Cornwall Council to provide purpose-built homes for people at risk of homelessness.  SoloHaus was the ideal housing solution for Cornwall, as it delivers quality accommodation that can be deployed quickly. I am delighted to be present for the handover of these first 15 SoloHaus. With the first residents due to move in ahead of Christmas, I’m confident these homes will have a positive impact on people’s lives for many years to come.”

A portable solution, SoloHaus are designed to be deployed permanently or on a temporary basis and can be disconnected from services easily and moved to other sites.

The 15 SoloHaus at Old County Hall are expected to remain in place for around three years, and after this time the homes will be moved to a new location to allow the current site to be regenerated.

The site will be managed by Cornwall Housing, and with potential residents already a good way through their journey to settled housing, they will have low or no support needs.  Each tenant will receive help to find a regular source of income and a more permanent home. 24/7 security will also be provided for at least the first 12 months.

Craig, who has found himself in the position of being homeless in the past said: “Homes like this give you a front door and a safe space. It makes a huge difference. It helps people get their lives back on track.”

MP for Truro and Falmouth Cherilyn Mackrory said: “Cornwall Council acquiring this site at Old County Hall is a significant step in ensuring we provide safe and comfortable temporary accommodation for those that need it.

“While temporary accommodation is a last resort, it is a vital lifeline for those at risk of homelessness, and I am pleased this site is up and ready to go.

“I look forward to supporting the next phase of the programme and continuing to work with the Council to tackle the housing crisis in Cornwall.

“I also remain focused on ensuring the Government continues to provide Councils with the funding and support they need to tackle homelessness and deliver more affordable housing across Cornwall.”

As well as providing modular homes for temporary and emergency accommodation, the Council 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.