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Competition: Starter for Ten, London

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Commonweal Housing has launched an ideas contest to transform disused structures into temporary living spaces for homeless Romanian migrants in north London

Open to everyone, the competition seeks ‘loose fit, light-touch’ proposals to transform abandoned offices and industrial units into transitional short-term accommodation for Romanian workers living in makeshift encampments around the busy North Circular Road.

The project aims to return the encampment sites to community use, and identify standard solutions to help all people forced into such unsanitary and unhealthy conditions. Proposals should deliver low-cost and flexible accommodation for people who are rough sleeping or at risk from rough sleeping and are struggling to access suitable private rented tenancies.

‘We genuinely don’t know what the answer is and need creative ideas,’ says the competition brief. ‘We are not looking to create a permanent housing solution – that is a wider issue that absolutely needs to be addressed. Instead the purpose of this competition is to find a viable and deliverable model for demountable, reusable, short-term accommodation options that can be deployed within existing buildings.

‘We believe there is a real need for a safe, hygienic, sanitary and affordable alternative to the streets or tents. We hope to identify something that can allow individuals a leg-up into the system, a stepping stone to working with partners to deliver a longer-term solution.’

The number of Romanian people rough sleeping in the capital has nearly tripled since 2013 when restrictions on emigrating from Romania were lifted. There are currently around 1,545 Romanians living in large open spaces, woodlands and parks surrounding the North Circular Road in settlements that often feature unsafe and unsanitary conditions. The camps also deprive local residential communities of vital amenity spaces. The project aims to address this double injustice by delivering new transitional living spaces within nearby underused spaces.

Commonweal Housing is a privately funded charity, which delivers bespoke housing solutions for target groups suffering social injustices. The group aims to identify prototype solutions that can be scaled up for wider application across the country.

Proposals should harness empty meanwhile-use space – such as community halls, offices and warehouses – to deliver temporary low-cost accommodation. Solutions must be flexible and should typically offer beds on a nightly or weekly basis for around £8 per night, as well as communal toilets, showers and food preparation areas. Rooms may be shared.

Stage one submissions should include conceptual visuals and a written explanation of the project. Six shortlisted teams will then be invited to attend a final interview.

Judges include Gensler director Jonathan Breen, Architecture Foundation assistant director Phineas Harper, dRMM director Sadie Morgan, and Commonweal’s board of trustees chair Fiona Mactaggart.

The overall winner will receive a £1,500 honorarium, while two runner-ups will each take home £750.

The deadline for applications has been extended to 23 June..

How to apply

Visit the competition website for more information

Contact details

Commonweal Housing
Unit 311
The Blackfriars Foundry
156 Blackfriars Road

Tel: 020 7199 8390
Email: info@commonweal.org.uk

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