Sustainable and affordable: The rise of tiny homes in New Zealand

"We don't have to follow the generic patterns of day to day life as we know it."
"We don't have to follow the generic patterns of day to day life as we know it." Photo credit: Supplied.

Buying a home in New Zealand is no mean feat, and with an economic crisis worse than the Great Depression expected in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it could become even harder - but one Kiwi man says his business could be the answer for thousands looking for affordable housing.

Gavin Barr always had a dream of creating sustainable, off-grid housing for those who needed it.

"[The idea] really resonated and stuck with me over the years, especially after growing into a passionate nature lover and embracing Kaitiakitanga, which basically is the Māori translation for sustainable management of natural resources," he told Newshub.

When his father died in 2010 Barr decided to commit to his idea and quit his job to follow his father into construction. 

Gavin Barr always had a dream of creating sustainable, off-grid housing for those who needed it.
Gavin Barr always had a dream of creating sustainable, off-grid housing for those who needed it. Photo credit: Supplied.

In 2017 he founded Ecospace - a company which builds compact, eco-friendly homes. He says he was inspired by the struggle he saw rising through the country as the housing crisis widened. People were unable to find homes and the homes that were there weren't always what was needed - draughty, leaky and aging properties were getting unaffordable. 

That gap in the market was exactly the space Barr needed to fill with housing solutions like Ecospace. 

"We have chosen to use high quality, eco-friendly products where possible throughout each step of the design," said Barr. 

"The end result is something I'm very proud of, a visually appealing, very warm, energy efficient, transportable space that can be used by Kiwi's for multiple situations, both off-grid and fixed."

With the tiny home movement taking off across the world, Barr expects demand to skyrocket. The popularity of shows like Netflix's Tiny House Nation and the influx of Instagram influencers rising to fame for living in glamorous vans or tiny cabins has brought the tiny house movement to the forefront of pop culture. 

Barr says it's thanks to this that the movement has "kicked off" in New Zealand in recent years - and while the country was in lockdown, his business received even more attention.

"I have no doubt from the response and enquiries so far that we will be booking out fairly quickly for the rest of the year."

Sustainable and affordable: The rise of tiny homes in New Zealand

He says the COVID-19 lockdown has shown people they don't have to buy a four-bedroom villa to be happy.

"I think [lockdown] has really sparked the idea that we don't necessarily have to follow the generic patterns we were of day to day life as we know it."

While the lockdown may have changed the mentality of some New Zealanders, Barr says that the popularity of tiny homes offers a solution for one of the country's most pressing problems. 

"Whether you're looking to downsize, escape the rat race, and choosing to live rural or by the beach, or just wanting to get on the property ladder in an affordable way, tiny houses can help solve these problems for Kiwis."

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