YMCA Thames Gateway: turning modular units into affordable homes

Could modular housing help to solve London’s affordable housing crisis? YMCA Thames Gateway’s latest project is a great example of what can be achieved.

Social Problem

While a lack of affordable housing is an issue across the UK, in London the problem is significantly worse. The average rent of £1,755 a month[1] is pricing many Londoners out of the market. For some people, the only option is a hostel, if they’re lucky. Hostels can then struggle to free up spaces, as there’s simply nowhere for their tenants to move to.


YMCA Thames Gateway offers accommodation for more than 200 people across its three hostels. The charity decided to create new affordable homes to give its hostel tenants that crucial next step in their journey towards a long-term home. Rather than building or buying traditional flats, the charity has opted for a modular design. 39 new single-occupancy units are being built off-site, and then installed next to the charity’s Romford hostel.


A grant from the Greater London Authority covered most of the cost of the new affordable homes, but YMCA Thames Gateway still needed to take out a £1.43m loan. The charity chose Charity Bank partly because of its work with so many other YMCAs across the UK.


The modular design of the new units – officially called INNO - means they’ve been built much quicker than traditional flats. Each one comes with a modern kitchen and bathroom and will be offered to the charity’s clients at 70% of the average local rent. Plus, thanks to energy-efficient heating systems, extensive insulation, water saving features, solar panels and other innovations, the homes are more environmentally-friendly and will save tenants money on their utility bills. Crucially, they will also free up beds in YMCA Thames Gateway’s hostels so they will be able to help more people threatened by homelessness.

The modular construction combines the engineering expertise of AECOM with the architectural excellence of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

“We felt that commercial banks were just looking at the transaction. Charity Bank see us as a partner, not just a client.”

Paul Setterfield, Executive Director of Finance & Resources at YMCA Thames Gateway

About Charity Bank

Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1,000 loans totalling over £300m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.

Find out more about us here.

Nothing in this article constitutes an invitation to engage in investment activity nor is it advice or a recommendation and professional advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued.

[1] https://www.homesandproperty.co.uk/property-news/renting/average-rent-in-london-falls-a139861.html