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.
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.