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3 designs that could solve the affordable housing crisis

The world’s tallest modular skyscraper, an eco-friendly planned community and the UK’s first ‘pop-up’ village. Architects are thinking outside the box with their designs to engage with generation rent.

1) The suburbs reinvented – Funari, Germany

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Dutch architects MVRDV are “reinventing affordable living in the suburbs” with an experimental housing project in Funari, Germany. The “fully pedestrianised village” features a network of paths, sports parks and themed eco-environments including fruit alleys.

The houses themselves will be built by Tramhaus, a specialist in high-quality, low-cost homes based on standardized templates. As a result, residents can build their own customised living spaces.

Templates include vegetated houses for eco-families, extendable stilt houses for first-time buyers and single storey tent-houses for the elderly. In addition, the private garden spaces that each home has can be adapted for recreation or food production.

“Funari brings back the varied neighbourhood,” explains MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas. “But also it’s a comment on the housing system today. A system where young people can’t afford to buy, where ‘affordable housing’ is of such a poor quality. We want to show that there is another way.”

2) Prefab skyscrapers – 461 Dean, New York

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At 32-storeys high, 461 Dean in Brooklyn is the world’s tallest modular tower, with 90% of its construction completed offsite.

The finished rooms, hallways and terraces were pre-assembled before being delivered to the site. Consequently, construction was quicker and 20% cheaper. Like puzzle pieces, the apartments’ pre-fabricated rooms were fitted and locked together. Cranes then placed them to create the building.

However, modular it may be, affordable for the average joe it most certainly is not. Studios at 461 Dean start at $2,450 per month, with one-bedrooms from $3,125 and two-bedrooms from $4,750.

The expert view: Phin Foster, editor of specialist architectural journal LEAF Review, on 461 Dean.

“Are we entering the age of the pre-fab skyscraper and what are the connotations for our cities? We put the question to architectural experts in the upcoming edition of Leaf Review.”

3) The UK’s first pop-up village – Ladywell, London

designs - Compelo

Homes in the pop-up Ladywell development in Lewisham cost just £156,000 to build, 20% cheaper than a typical council house.

Resembling brightly coloured children’s toy boxes, the modular flats consist of two factory-made units lifted into place by cranes. As a result, you can take them apart and rebuild them up to five times.

Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the two-bedroom properties house formerly homeless families and last for 60 years. In addition, the ground floor of Ladywell contains shops, a cafe, a community cinema and co-working spaces for local businesses.

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