Affordable housing? It’s a shed

CHRISTEL YARDLEY/STUFF Jacob Matekino has big plans to get homeless into affordable housing.

A Kiwi man has been congratulated for his vision of a solution to the problem of affordable housing for Maori. His exciting new tiny home is barely more than an insulated kit set garden shed with no kitchen and a composting toilet. Apart from what I suspect is a very basic shower, it is no different to any of the sleepouts that are already dotted all over Auckland.

Typical interior of a tiny house

Tiny homes have full kitchens and proper showers and toilets. They usually have loft bedrooms and are on a trailer to get around council regulations. They are a tiny house, not a shed.

[…] Fed up with watching his baby daughter get sick in their cold, mouldy rental, Jacob Matekino decided to do something about it.

So the steel worker decided to learn how to build his own affordable, warm, and eco-friendly home.

[…] Together they built their own home – for $4200.

His tiny house, and broader vision for 21st century Māori housing developments, which he calls “E-WE”, has caught the attention of social housing minister Amy Adams, and Matekino believes his idea could ease New Zealand’s housing crisis.

What he has created is a smaller version of an insulated garage. The media castigate landlords who rent out garages as accommodation but this man’s insulated shed has them excited with the E-WE concept. All he has done is work within the law to avoid council regulations. A much larger insulated garage with a composting toilet and a shower would be even better but then a garage doesn’t sound as wonderful as an affordable, warm and eco-friendly home.

Garage home

[…] Alongside his tiny house build, Matekino also had a bigger picture in mind.  He envisaged a contemporary take on a traditional Māori pa, based on papakainga (a form of housing development for Māori 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 (no plumbing required), shower and a little stove.

Daiman Otto, director of Tall Wood, was blown away by Matekino’s E-WE concept.

It has a rainwater harvesting system – which the shower runs off, and a grey-water tank. The waste from the toilet is used as fertiliser for the garden. It’s warm, dry – and Matekino says his daughter hasn’t been sick since. With help from friends, it cost him just $4,200 – far cheaper, albeit more modest, than many other tiny houses on the market – some of which exceed $100,000.

This year, Matekino had the opportunity to present his E-WE concept to a panel at a Dragon’s Den-style contest at Toi Ohomai.

He spent about fifteen minutes revealing his vision 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 Māori twist. “You’d have the little-gabled 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 of the houses 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.

There is a lot of unused Maori land that could be easily utilised to provide communal housing like this for Maori but that will not solve the problem of affordable housing in the cities. Like the tiny home concept these sheds are really just a wooden caravan and what the E-We concept will be providing will be similar to what caravan parks have provided to poor people for many years now.

Like with people living in garages the media do not see a warm and dry caravan as an acceptable affording housing solution so why are they and some politicians so excited about an insulated wooden shed concept? The answer lies in the politically correct building materials.

Lynette in front of her home Photo: RNZ / Brad White

The innovation doesn’t stop there. The homes would be made from Hempcrete – one of the greenest building resources on the planet. It’s made from a mix of hemp fibre, lime and water, and is extremely durable.

Hempcrete also helps remove carbon from the atmosphere, provides natural insulation, is fire-resistant, and non-toxic.

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

“It would be a matter of having the right design, and talking to the right people.”

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 panel tasked with critiquing the students’ presentations, and was so impressed with Matekino’s plan – he offered him an internship. Otto knew Matekino would be a great fit for his company. “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.”

Tall Wood’s begun assisting Matekino with the practicalities of his concept, while Matekino’s helping oversee and advise on Tall Wood’s own papakainga projects.

Otto’s first piece of advice to Matekino 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 across New Zealand, along with the concept of “self-build” – working with a system to literally, build your own house.

[…] Otto thinks E-WE is absolutely achievable, pointing out that the tiny houses in the concept wouldn’t even necessarily require building consents. If a building is 10 square metres or less and doesn’t contain cooking or sanitary facilities – you’re pretty much free to plonk it where you please, bar a few minor technicalities.

If it doesn’t have cooking or sanitary facilities it is not a tiny home it is an insulated shed.

“If you’ve got the social infrastructure and sanitary infrastructure in place, then the E-WE concept about those individual sleeping quarters becomes something that you can add on, as scale and requirements dictate … there’s nothing fundamentally risky about this.”

Otto sees the way that E-WE adheres to the traditional way of Māori life as a bit of a “hack” of the system.

“There’s a real shift, a real desire for change in how we build affordable housing. I think Jacob’s tapped into something that’s just below the surface, and about to crack open”.

What he has come up with is a politically correct way to create wooden caravan parks. A feel-good, socially acceptable way for people to live in poverty.

[…] Labour’s housing spokesman. Phil Twyford, was also interested in learning more about the E-WE concept.

[…] However, Twyford says he is aware that for many families, sacrificing living space would be a big price to pay to get a roof over their heads. He believes the bigger imperative is to fix the underlying drivers of what he describes as an acute housing crisis.

[…] To those who may question whether tiny house living is the answer to the homeless plight, Matekino is firm in his belief that it’s a far more favourable option than living in a car or under a bridge.

I agree wholeheartedly but then so is a warm dry insulated garage or caravan.

– Sunday Star Times

Below is the kit set shed that looks exactly like the ” Eco-home” that Jacob Matekino built and that has people so excited.



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