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Home sweet Tiny Home – Can new innovations end up the housing crisis?

Photo by Jean van der Meulen for Pexels

A dark-green down jacket, jeans, a black knitted sweater and an iPhone in her left hand. That is Hope. Hope is sitting at her table and looking for a new accommodation. Since she has started College in Dublin three months before she wasn’t able to find an accommodation that suits her. “I was looking for an accommodation from March but I couldn’t find one. The rent was really high as well. Of course, the landlords are taking advantage of the housing crisis sometimes.”

Photo by Philipp Baumhöfner for TheCircular.org.

Hope is not the only person that is affected and under pressure because of the recent housing crisis. The need of living space and affordable housing is very high. Currently there are over 11.700 people who are living in emergency accommodations. Whether you are a tenant or even a houseowner the housing crisis is complicated not least due to limited space and high rents at the same time. The Irish Council for social housing therefore requires a “variety of affordable rental and ownership housing options (…) for lower income and median income households.”

Being affected by the housing crisis does not only mean having little space and extraordinary bills to pay. It also means moving into a room that is far away from the city and your friends. Hope had to move into a house 3 hours away from her friends and college when she first came to Dublin. For her, this had made her really upset, she says. “It was a very painful experience and really frustrating. I kind of felt isolated because I could not meet my friends when I would like to do.” This insight seems to have attached her like a tick on the skin of its victim. Her dissatisfaction was clearly noticeable in that moment. “There were days when I left the College, I was standing in front of it and just crying. I did not know how to escape from my situation”, Hope continues.

Ending up the housing crisis is the goal of the government for years now. Even their established ‘housing for all’ plan which is due 2030 aims to build around 33.000 new homes each year from 2021. But can this plan end up the housing crisis at all or does it need other innovations?

A new innovation that came up the las years is the concept of tiny homes and module housing. On the one hand it is characterized as a very energy efficient solution with a small scale. On the other hand tiny homes can be built in factories over a time period from one to 12 weeks. In relation to the ‘housing for all’ plan it seems to be a viable solution to guarantee more housing in a short time period. “Off-site manufacturing can help to spread risk from a limited number of delivery methods such as traditional construction. Other innovations should be examined to establish whether this can deliver housing at greater scale and in a timely manner”, says Ken Reid, information and communications coordinator from the Irish council for social housing.

The use of tiny homes and module housing is increasing throughout the EU even in England or in Germany. In Germany for example the concept of tiny home has increased over the past years especially with regard to space problems. As a consequence the city council in Dortmund, a city in Nort-Rhine Westfalia, is about to build a tiny village where only tiny homes are allowed. From 2025 the city council will built around 30 new tiny homes for the village. So what is holding back from developing a tiny village in Ireland as well? The biggest problem might be the missing factories. In England for example, a new modular homes factory is being developed to be able to build around 4.000 homes each year. In Ireland, there is no factory about that size until today. However, Hope believes in the concept. In her personal opinion, tiny homes might be a solution for the housing crisis. “I definitely believe in tiny homes and new innovations. It is obvious that we need more solutions than just the plans by the government.”

“This is a functioning country with a good infrastructure in general. If the crisis is something that the government really want to fix, they should invest more money and be open for new innovations like the tiny homes.”

Hope

Meanwhile Hope has found a new accommodation that is located a bit closer to her friends and the College. But this has its price. Even though she lives in a shared accommodation with four other people her rent is about €800 per month. That is a lot especially with regard to her low income as a student. “I don’t have a job at the moment. It’s actually my dad who supports me with some money. All in all I have around €1.000 each month.” That means she has only €200 left to buy food and pay all the rest. But she is not the only one with this problem. In Ireland the average rent is about €1.400 while the average salary is about €845 per week and only €400 per week for people earning a minimum wage. For those people it can become a huge challenge to keep their living standards and to not fall below the poverty line.

With regard to the current prices a tiny home would be much cheaper than a normal house. One- and two-bedroom homes can be built for €100.000-€150.000 while in contrast the median house price only in Dublin is €430.000.

Even though the concept of tiny homes and modular housing is not well developed in Ireland yet it might have a positive impact for the housing crisis due to a lot of benefits. However, there are still many people that are affected by the current housing crisis. For those people, Hope has an advice in the end: „Be aware of all the scams when you are looking for an accommodation on the Internet, especially on Facebook. And don’t send any deposits to book a house before a visit to avoid any fraud. Sometimes you have to be patient. I know it is difficult but that is the reality.”

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