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‘Ikea for Homes’ Offers Solution to Housing Affordability Crisis

4 October 2016 at 2:14 pm
Ellie Cooper
Described as “Ikea on steroids”, the first flat-packed, off-grid, tiny homes will use vacant city spaces and cut the costs of standard housing.

Ellie Cooper | 4 October 2016 at 2:14 pm


‘Ikea for Homes’ Offers Solution to Housing Affordability Crisis
4 October 2016 at 2:14 pm

Described as “Ikea on steroids”, the first flat-packed, off-grid, tiny homes will use vacant city spaces and cut the costs of standard housing.

Big World Homes is a social enterprise created, and so far largely funded, by architect Alexander Symes with the intention of tackling Australia’s housing affordability crisis.

“We’re excited to be launching one of the most progressive, socially-oriented, community-driven housing projects that Australia has ever seen, at a time when new options in affordable housing have never been more vital,” Symes said.

“A transitional housing product that offers a solution to people currently unable to get into home ownership will completely disrupt the housing industry in a way we’ve never seen before.”

Australia’s five major metropolitan cities have been classified as “severely unaffordable” for the past 11 years, according to the 2016 Demographia annual report.

The first home was constructed in Sydney last week, where a typical house currently costs more than $1 million – 5.6 times the median household income.

A Big World Home is portable, off-the-grid and is designed to be built by two unskilled people in a few days using a hammer and a drill. It’s also legally considered a caravan, which means it can be parked on private land.

By removing labour and land costs, the homes cut up to 80 per cent of the costs of a similar stand-alone dwelling costing between $60,000 to $80,000 to buy and build.

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Dr Joanne Jakovich, co-innovator of Big World Homes and founder of Strategic Open Urbanism Platform, said the social enterprise creates pop-up, transitional communities, as well as an additional rung on the homeownership ladder.

“The generational gap is widening, wages are declining, relative prices increasing, and most mortgages continue to go to existing homeowners,” Jakovich said.

“The re-thinking of ‘space’ and ‘wealth’ is to housing what the sharing economy was to capitalism – Big World Homes has an expansive effect, creating a new life and new communities in the city.”

Big World Homes ambassador Ella Colley also said the team planned to work with developers, governments and community organisations to help address homelessness and the lack of social housing.

“That is one of our big goals for this project, to work with partners in social services and in government to work out how this model could be adapted for people who are in need,” Colley told Pro Bono Australia News.  

“It was designed as a way to tackle affordable housing, particularly in urban areas, and at the moment in Sydney.

“A lot of people who have been coming by are interested in them for country properties or granny flats, but the idea is really to work with councils and developers in order to use unused land in the city, and to create pop-up communities using these Big World Homes.”

She said while the homes were intended to create transitional communities to help people move into homeownership, they could also be used long term.

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“The way in which they’re insulated and weatherproofed and all that kind of stuff means they could feasibly be used longer term for someone if they were interested in living in a smaller space and challenging the idea that more is better and bigger is better in terms of housing,” she said.

“The other thing about them is they are modular as well so you can buy two or three of them and connect them so they don’t necessarily have to be just a tiny home. For example if you’re a couple and you wanted to have two of them connected one could kind of serve as kitchen, dining, living and the other one could be a bedroom.

“There’s also a wider environmental impact and mission in the sense that they are off grid, they collect rainwater, the solar panels provide all of the electricity, and it’s very much about living alone in that lifestyle and reducing your footprint.”

Colley is also the Big World Homes “guinea pig” and will be moving into a home next year. “The idea is that for someone like myself, who spends a very large portion of my income on rent, that I move into a Big World Home in order to remove myself from the rental market so that I could potentially save for a deposit on an apartment, or on a home,” she said.

“I actually agreed to do this before I’d seen it. It’s actually a lot bigger than I imagined in my mind.

“The temperature control is really wonderful in comparison to something like a caravan or a container home. It’s really well insulated and really well weather proofed. The external material we use on the outside aerates the whole structure so it breathes really nicely, you don’t have your sheets with damper mould or anything like that.

“But for me it just feels like a really cozy spot to be, and I’m thrilled about the idea of trying to shake up what it means to live in this city – is there a different way we can approach housing and that we can tackle housing challenges?

“I’m sick of share housing, I’ve done it for a long time, but I also have no chance of being able to afford to rent my own apartment, let alone buy one, so I’m curious as to how something like this will work. And I’m really excited to give it a go.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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