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Small Homes Advocated To Replace Emergency Housing Motels

Temporary small homes could be used around the country instead of motels to provide temporary emergency housing which can eventually be owned as an asset,” says New Zealand construction company Site Scope.

“Instead of millions in taxpayers’ dollars housing the homeless in motels and having nothing to show for it, that same money could go into homes that could be paid off with the houses kept as assets to be moved to where there is a need, or the homes could be a permanent fixture,” says Hamish Abercrombie, Site Scope’s Project Consultant.

Site Scope makes transportable small homes and accessways. The company also makes large houses and buildings using an adaptive modular system as the building’s foundation, allowing a flexible design within the building’s framework. These have been used in a number of Ministry of Education classrooms.

The company will be at the Waitangi Housing Expo 2024 being held on Waitangi Day at the Waitangi Sports Ground. The expo will provide aspiring homeowners and housing developers with an opportunity to engage with each other and build a ‘roadmap to my home’ which is the theme of this year’s expo.

“We have a real housing shortage in New Zealand that needs to be addressed. Housing is not a privilege but a fundamental human right, and we want safe, affordable housing to be accessible to everyone. Having a regular place to call home is imperative for good social outcomes. A motel is not a home,” Mr Abercrombie says.

“As a country, we have faced similar housing issues in the past with the use of transition housing camps after WWII. Some of these camps were still in used until the early 1960s. Back then we had around 30,000 people waitlisted for social housing, today we have around the same number. Of the 30,000, 50 per cent require one bed and 30 per cent require two beds. Small houses could take care of over 80 per cent of the need for one and two-bed homes.

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“For emergency temporary housing we could use land earmarked for future development, such as schools, or other vacant Crown or privately owned land which can be left vacant for 3-10 years. Right-to-occupy agreements given to the individual or organisation that owns the small home would formalise the terms of land use and home occupation. This would create a stable tenure for homeowners and landowners alike.

“Tenants could achieve home ownership through various means such as a buy-back scheme which enables them to gradually acquire ownership of their tenanted home.”

Mr Abercrombie says Site Scope designs durable and resilient long-term small housing, with a fast construction process and accelerated delivery.

“When I talk about small homes, I don’t mean granny flats or cabins used for temporary housing that are traditionally low-quality structures with a short lifespan. I mean durable timber, steel-framed houses that resist wear and tear and are made to withstand NZ’s diverse climate and environmental conditions,” he says.

“By small homes, I mean apartment sized from 30 metres square free-standing homes with one bedroom to 50 metres square with 1-3 beds that are popular in space-constrained countries such as the UK and Japan where small homes are seen as a practical and affordable housing solution.

Smaller homes have a low total build cost making them more affordable and accessible, they can be constructed and transported quickly, with manufacturing and assembling in as little as 3-4 weeks.”

This speed was seen last year in response to the Cyclone Gabrielle devastation in Gisborne where Site Scope provided part of the solution.

“The speed at which the houses were delivered to the community was a testament to the success of the approach we have devised and the local iwi we formed a relationship with which had strong leadership, an agreed housing vision, and land that was ready for housing. It showed that when led by capable organisations, rapid housing delivery is achievable.

“One of our key objectives is to help iwi, who are playing a major role in addressing the housing crisis, to reintegrate people back to their ancestral land.

“For areas where land is available or held in joint ownership Site Scope has developed a clustered housing concept where groups of ten houses are arranged near each other creating a small neighbourhood.

“By maintaining a small scale, we aim to avoid the pitfalls of overcrowding, isolation, and disconnection that can arise in more expansive community and whānau housing projects in urban locations. Research shows that smaller, closely-knit communities often result in enhanced interactions, social cohesion, and a sense of belonging,” Mr Abercrombie says.

Site Scope is also advocating for small houses up to 60 square metres with cooking, laundry, and bathroom facilities to be able to be built without a building consent. Currently, sleepouts up to 30 square metres can be built, without any facilities.

“Maintaining government regulations is important but we are looking to streamline the process and promote a more efficient system that still adheres to all applicable regulations and standards to deliver quality homes at speed.

Mr Abercrombie says the current reliance on meticulous planning consumes time and money and gets in the way of providing adequate and timely housing solutions.

Site Scope will be at the Waitangi Housing Expo 2024 on 6 February at the Waitangi sports ground from 9-4 pm.

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