How to build a hipster housing development in ten days
Mike, 32, works as an accountant for an international development charity, but, despite having a healthy salary, he cannot afford a house in London.
His story is unremarkable. Londoners have come to accept that owning a home is an ambition for later in life if they don't have help from relatives.
Millennials like Mike aren't in desperate circumstances, but they make London the vibrant city that it is, and one developer thinks they deserve to own a home here.
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Pocket is a developer building small developments throughout the capital and selling its homes to middle-income Londoners (earning less than £90,000) who are first-time buyers looking for property in the borough where they work, or where they are currently living. The homes are sold at a discount of 25 per cent or more on the average price of property in the area.
Lucian Smithers, Pocket's sales director, says the schemes are aimed at the capital's public servants and creatives; the average wage of a Pocket resident is £40,000. London's communities cannot function without teachers, nurses and police, but cash-strapped councils tend to focus on people in more immediate need of shelter, he says.
Pocket's solution to London's middle-market housing crisis is to build one-bed flats nestled in small, unused sites throughout London.
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Currently, Pocket is developing a site for 70 homes next to council housing on China Walk Estate in Lambeth, set to be completed next January. Councils are strict about sites like these. If building takes too long, if there are too many trucks coming in and out, it will disrupt the lives of the residents living there.
The trick, Smithers says, is to build quickly. And by quick, he means: build 32 flats in ten days. This is what Pocket recently achieved with a development in Streatham.
Pocket assembles the flats entirely off-site. The steel frame, the electrical wiring, the appliances and the floor-to-ceiling windows are all put together in a factory. Then, the assembled property is hoisted onto a lorry like a shipping container and driven into London.
On site, a crane swings the flats into place. One by one, the Lego blocks are stacked up, and within a matter of weeks, the development is done.
The flats are eco-friendly, with excellent insulation, and the well-proportioned rooms provide more than enough space for a young, single Londoner; plenty of storage, one double bedroom, a living space, and a wet room. The flats are actually designed to fit Ikea furniture perfectly – flat-pack furniture for a flat-pack home.
The flats are around 38 square metres in size. Residents in Pocket's development in Lambeth can get all this for just £267,000.
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Unsurprisingly, Pocket's chic, white-walled pads are heavily oversubscribed. There are 10 applicants for every home on offer.
With this is in mind, the company is keen to build quickly, and wants to complete 4,000 homes by 2023. Pocket has built 357 homes in the past 13 years, but the business took a long time to set up. Part of that was securing a £21m loan from the Greater London Authority that it uses to buy land. Now, with its business model up-and-running, Pocket is ready to stack up flats for Londoners at a record rate.