A new business in Kaikohe aims to tackle homelessness, soaring property prices and unemployment by building tiny houses.
LittleHouses Ltd opened its construction workshop in the former Northern News building on lower Broadway on Tuesday and already has a dozen of the 10sq m homes in varying states of completion.
Five young Ngapuhi men have been hired as apprentices and will be trained by a qualified builder. The company hopes to take on 10 more trainees and two more builders in the next 12 months.
Director Bert Lamb, of Auckland, said rising property prices, homelessness and unemployment were global issues making it difficult for people to get into their own space.
''We're all entitled to have somewhere to live. We want to help people to do that.''
Not only were the company's houses much cheaper than traditional homes — especially if land, such as Maori land, was available — but the floor area had been kept to 10sq m because that meant no costly council consents were necessary.
The council had to be involved only if the owner wanted to connect to water or sewerage systems or install a septic tank.
The 10sq m size also meant no NZ Transport Agency permission was required to transport them on a highway.
Lamb said the little houses came in two versions and a choice of three types of cladding.
The basic version was marketed as a cabin and the "optimum" model came with a toilet, shower, kitchenette and solar panels. Both versions had a loft sleeping area accessed by a ladder and a deck.
The houses were ''by the Far North for the Far North''. A Kaikohe hardware store provided most of the materials, the doors and windows were made in Kerikeri, the steel cladding from Whangarei, and carpenters and electricians were from Kaikohe.
Lamb hoped that by starting a new business in Kaikohe others might be encouraged to set up in the town.
Te Ramaroa Reihana, 19, from Taheke, is one of five apprentices who started on Monday. He completed a building course last year but this is his first job.
''It's a great opportunity and it helps the community by making cheap houses,'' he said.
The Ministry of Social Development is involved in the project. Lamb also hopes to get iwi on board and to open a second workshop in Henderson, Auckland.