Our $4200 home

One man’s con­cept for cheap, af­ford­able hous­ing has a uniquely Kiwi flavour. Think Hob­biton with a Maori twist. Heather McCar­ron re­ports.

Sunday News - - NEWS -

FED up with watch­ing his baby daugh­ter get sick in their cold, mouldy rental, Ja­cob Matekino de­cided to do some­thing about it – he learnt how to build his own eco-home.

The steel­worker took up a Bach­e­lor of Cre­ative Tech­nolo­gies course at Ro­torua’s Toi Ohomai In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, and his part­ner learned car­pen­try. And to­gether they built a home – for $4200.

His tiny house, and broader vi­sion for 21st cen­tury Maori hous­ing de­vel­op­ments, which he calls ‘‘E-WE’’, have caught the at­ten­tion of So­cial Hous­ing Min­is­ter Amy Adams, and Matekino be­lieves his idea could ease New Zealand’s hous­ing cri­sis.

For Matekino, be­ing able to house his fam­ily in a home of their own rep­re­sents a ma­jor turn­around. The 24-year-old’s damp rental was not only af­fect­ing his fam­ily’s phys­i­cal health and his men­tal health.

He had so much time off to look af­ter his part­ner and 2-yearold daugh­ter Kyra Laua­giag­iMatekino that he was fall­ing be­hind in his stud­ies.

Last win­ter, Matekino even wound up, briefly, on the street and he spent a few nights sleep­ing rough in Ro­torua’s ther­mal Kuirau Park, where the steam of­fered warmth.

‘‘We were hav­ing dra­mas at home, and I wanted to get away, but didn’t know who to turn to. I went to the street be­cause it was the eas­i­est op­tion,’’ he says.

Spurred on by what he wit­nessed, Matekino learnt the ba­sics of in­te­rior and spa­tial de­sign, ar­chi­tec­ture, and in­stal­la­tion – all the while bat­tling health is­sues.

Along­side his tiny house, Matekino had a big­ger pic­ture in mind: a con­tem­po­rary take on a tra­di­tional Maori pa, based on pa­pakainga (a form of hous­ing devel­op­ment for Maori on an­ces­tral land) – but with a stronger fo­cus on com­mu­nal liv­ing, af­ford­abil­ity, sus­tain­abil­ity and so­cial be­hav­iour. He called the con­cept E-WE.

Fast for­ward to early 2017, and the first part of Matekino’s dream be­came re­al­ity – he moved his fam­ily into their self-built, 10 square-me­tre house, on his mother’s land.

The bed­room fits the cou­ple’s bed and a cot and is par­ti­tioned off from a com­post­ing toi­let, shower and a lit­tle stove.

It has a rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing sys­tem and a grey-wa­ter tank. It’s warm, dry – and Matekino says his daugh­ter hasn’t been sick since. With help from friends, it cost him just $4200 – far cheaper, al­beit more mod­est, than many other tiny houses on the mar­ket – some of which ex­ceed $100,000.

This year, Matekino had pre­sented his E-WE con­cept to a panel at a Dragon’s Den- style con­test at Toi Ohomai and left the judges stunned.

‘‘Their eyes were wide open, jaws dropped – they didn’t re­ally know what to say,’’ says Matekino. ‘‘They told me to take a seat while they col­lected them­selves, and put to­gether their ques­tions.’’

So what does E-WE look like? Think Hob­biton, with a Maori twist. ‘‘You’d have the lit­tle­gabled roofs, like the whare, plot­ted along the hills.’’

The homes would vary in sizes, start­ing from 10 square me­tres, and oc­cu­pants would utilise com­mu­nal fa­cil­i­ties.

Each home would have a green­house to grow veg­eta­bles all year around, and the use of so­lar pan­els would gear the com­mu­ni­ties up to be ‘‘net pos­i­tive’’ – gen­er­at­ing more power than they con­sume and putting it back into the grid.

The in­no­va­tion doesn’t stop there. The homes would be made from Hem­pcrete – made from a durable mix of hemp fi­bre, lime and wa­ter – which pro­vides nat­u­ral in­su­la­tion, is fir­ere­sis­tant, and non-toxic.

Matekino is con­fi­dent each tiny house could be built for around $10,000. He cites po­ten­tial fund­ing sources as Maori Land Trusts set up through the Wai­tangi Tri­bunal and lo­cal coun­cils.

Some­one vow­ing to help get Matekino in front of those peo­ple is Daiman Otto. He’s the di­rec­tor of Tall Wood – an Auck­land-based build­ing com­pany fo­cused on af­ford­abil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity.

Otto was part of the Toi Ohomai panel and was so im­pressed with Matekino’s plan, he of­fered him an in­tern­ship. ‘‘The fact that he’d gone out and ac­tu­ally built some­thing to im­prove his life and his daugh­ter’s life and his part­ner’s life, to me that’s ev­ery­thing.’’

Otto’s first piece of ad­vice was to trade­mark the name E-WE.

‘‘It’s got great brand­ing, and I think that’s what’s clever about it as well. He’s wrapped it up in this con­cept which is easy to un­der­stand. The brand – the story – is right there.’’

Otto thinks there’s a mas­sive po­ten­tial for pa­pakainga-type devel­op­ment.

‘‘When you’re tack­ling af­ford­abil­ity, it’s not just about

In­no­va­tive and clever ideas like this one are things that we should be ac­tively con­sid­er­ing in terms of as a pos­si­ble re­sponse to home­less­ness.’ PHIL TWYFORD

Ja­cob Matekino’s daugh­ter Kyra is no longer fall­ing ill now that her dad has pro­vided a warm, dry home in an ini­tia­tive that might help many other fam­i­lies.

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