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Pioneering housing project welcomes first residents

United Communities pioneering housing project has welcomed its first residents

LaunchPad is a modular housing solution for the young independent adult, ready for a new start in life, in modern and inspired accommodation. It is here to help people break out of student rentals, supported housing or overpriced accommodation. It aims to bring people together, help increase diversity in communities and build wellbeing for the best start in life.

This September (2019) the first LaunchPad residents moved into this exciting new housing scheme in Fishponds, Bristol. This pioneering housing project for young people is the first of its kind in the UK and the first Bristol Housing Festival project to be completed.

LaunchPad is a partnership between; United Communities Housing Association, 1625 Independent People (1625ip) and the University of Bristol Student Union. The project brings 31 young people; students, keyworkers and 1625ip service users together to offer mutual benefit, enabling the stability of a safe and affordable home while also expanding young people’s horizons by enabling experiences that they may never have otherwise encountered. The mixed community is designed to create an aspirational environment where young people can learn from each other and encourage one another to achieve their goals and positively contribute to their community. There is a community development worker for the project; all residents have access to University of Bristol facilities and housing support from United Communities.

The idea is inspired by a visit to a development called Startblok Riekerhaven in Amsterdam which houses young people and refugees in 500 modular-built homes. Oona Goldsworthy, outgoing United Communities CEO, visited the scheme as part of her Winston Churchill Memorial Trust research project looking into housing solutions for millennials and LaunchPad was born.

Acting Chief Executive of Bristol Students’ Union Ben Pilling said:

‘LaunchPad is a project that has been in the works for a while, and we’re excited that the new development is now open. This is a unique accommodation opportunity for Bristol students which will bring together young people from diverse backgrounds.’

‘LaunchPad is a not-for-profit initiative, unlike most other accommodation available in the city, and people living in the development will be invited to participate in decisions that shape their living community.’

‘We’ve enjoyed welcoming the first cohort of tenants in September and hope this will pave the way for other unique accommodation opportunities that provide value for students.’

Anna Klimczak, United Communities Interim Chief Executive said :

‘LaunchPad has been a true partnership project providing the first co-living community in the country for students and other young people. Constructing these units in 6 months proves that we can deliver good homes quickly. We are looking forward to Launchpad 2!’

From start to finish, the whole project has taken less than a year to complete. The rapid turnaround was achieved by utilising modular building methods that allow project times to be cut considerably when compared with traditional bricks and mortar methods, with no compromise on quality. Modular building specialists Integra Buildings constructed the one-person studios in a matter of weeks.

The initial concept for Launchpad was to convert shipping containers, but it was decided these would be too small and restrictive. Instead, a bespoke ‘container style’ home was designed collaboratively by AlecFrench Architects, Studio Hive and Integra Buildings. Each studio includes larger floor space and higher ceilings than a shipping container, kitchenette, bathroom, study area and space-saving features to maximise space.

The scheme offers a solution to using awkward, difficult to develop, plots of land. The nature of modular also means that land can be used for a relatively short amount of time. The disused council carpark the homes are built on is leased to the project for ten years on a peppercorn rent. The idea being that once the lease is up the modules can be moved elsewhere if needed.

The hope is that this new community offers the young residents an opportunity to thrive, in a safe, affordable, supportive and beautiful home.