Could Tiny Homes Help Tackle Tasmania’s Housing Crisis?
A community project in a depressed town in Tasmania is using repurposed shipping containers to help build the community out of poverty.
One in four people in Break O’Day, Tasmania live below the poverty line. With this comes high rates of social exclusion, mental health problems and a lack of direction for the town’s kids. Housing is a problem in the community, so what better way to help tackle these issues than to train young adults in carpentry as they build tiny container homes for local families?
Let’s first look at the problems in the town and then how St Helen’s Neighbourhood House is training people to build their way out of poverty.
Local social exclusion statistics
While on the surface Break O’Day is a quaint little seafront town, not everyone can be said to find life free and easy.
Around 15.1% of Tasmanian residents live below the poverty line. While this is quite high as any measures go, Break O’Day is significantly worse than the average as 1,415 of its residents (23.61%) live at or below the poverty line. Of these, 269 (26.5% of children in the town) live in difficulty.
The biggest problem however is the amount of people in the town who live in ‘housing stress’, which the council defines as, “When a family or individual who has an income level in the bottom 40% of Australia’s income distribution and their household expenses consume 30% or more of their income”. Just short of 47% of the residents (161 households) are experiencing housing stress according to recent figures.
Community resolves its problems
Funded by the Crown, St Helens Neighbourhood House is a community resource that many are using to face down and tackle the locality’s problems. The THRIVE project was set up within this to focus on the issues that so many in Break O’Day face.
THRIVE stands for: Transforming Health Relationships Innovation Vocation and Education. In recent years it has enrolled 59 young adults in training, 85% who completed it, 48% who continued training beyond, 24% ended up volunteering, and two people (16%) ended up in full time employment as a result of that training.
One way to get young adults economically active has been the THRIVE Build project, where young people apprentice as carpenters while building container tiny homes.
Seeded with $250,000 of grant money, the THRIVE Build project is designed to give young adults employment skills by training them as they build homes for the community. The idea is that once the container homes are built, they are auctioned off so the project eventually becomes self funding.
According to the THRIVE website, “The project will potentially provide training towards a Certificate III in Carpentry to 12 people over an 18 month period. Training is delivered Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Trade Training Centre with a maximum intake of six people per two 9-month time frames.”
The social enterprise working group of THRIVE runs this, and a community vegetable garden, and between them the project claims it has, “obtained an apprenticeship for one young person and a further six are well along the path to towards a trade career in construction”.
Shipping container tiny homes
Browse through the Gateway Gazette and you will see any number of shipping tiny home projects. While small in overall space, they can be built and fitted out for under $50,000, and retail for $80k plus.
Speaking to ABC, St Helens Neighbourhood House Manager Trish O’Duffy said, “It’s quite an affordable home, it’s fully kitted out, we would like to tender for any housing strategy strategy that comes up, we feel that we’d be able to branch into that market.”
This issue was questioned however, with someone pointing out that a container tiny home might only be good for one or two people but certainly not a young family for example. For older couples and younger couples who have no children, shipping container housing at the ‘tiny’ end of the spectrum can make for cheap and affordable housing.
Actually building them gave real direction and drive to the apprentices. Supervising carpenter Brian Matthews said of his proteges to ABC, “I take little signs like taking a photo of what they’d just completed or showing up on time week in, week out as my way of gauging whether they’re enjoying themselves or not.”
As indicated above, the young adults involved in THRIVE seem to have got a lot out of the project, whether as a marketable skill for employment, or to use in the community for the community’s benefit while volunteering.
Could this be done elsewhere?
Shipping containers are found almost everywhere on the planet. They are often left to rot, but with a bit of skill and time can be repurposed into housing. There are issues – they are designed to be pest free transportation equipment and the flooring for example has all sorts of nasty chemicals in it to keep out insects.
Being metal boxes they have little or no insulation from the elements outside. This means they need insulation in almost all climates. Beyond that you need light ingress so need to reinforce and cut out access doors and windows – all this comes on top of fitting the place out as a home.
Once the home is wired, plumbed and fitted it can be installed on a simple foundation and either left as long as required or moved on as often as needed.
The skills and trades that go into converting a shipping container into a home can make the apprentice who does it very employable, especially in an area that has housing need. They can train in different trades from plumbing, to joinery and from the listless, feckless youth who turns up on day one can see a transformation into a man or woman who never goes hungry again – with a trade like joinery you never will!
Gateway Container Sales
For just a few thousand dollars you can buy and fit out your own container tiny home too! Just get in contact with us today to discuss your needs and we’ll do what we can to help.