Tiny homes for those without one of their own

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A tiny home village has been opened in Melbourne’s west for those who have experienced homelessness and need a permanent residence.

This tiny house village for those without a home sits on unused government land in Melbourne’s west. Picture: Launch Housing

This week is Homelessness Week and brings attention to the fact that around 116,000 Australians are currently without a home.

The Harris Transportable Housing Project is one of several tiny home villages around the country. These villages aim to provide immediate housing to those who are experiencing homelessness.

This project first began two years ago with the aim of creating tiny houses that would sit on unused government land for tenants to live in on a long-term basis.

Residents began moving into the $9 million project’s first village of six tiny homes in Maidstone earlier this year.

Community agency Launch Housing has teamed up philanthropists Brad and Geoff Harris as well as the Victorian Property Fund for this project, which creates permanent spaces for those without a home.

“Homelessness is getting worse, not better and we urgently need solutions. Whilst tiny homes aren’t suitable for everybody, some people including the people that we’ve talked to, who are living at and making these places their homes right now, have told us this can be life changing,” says Launch Housing chief executive officer Bevan Warner.

The project will establish nine tiny home villages with a total of 57 homes on empty Vic Roads land.

Warner describes the response from the neighbours to the first tiny home village in Melbourne’s west as “overwhelmingly positive”.

“We’ve improved the streetscape. So what was an overgrown, poorly attended suburban block is now quite attractive to the eye. And the neighbours and local community groups have really adopted the residents and welcomed them,” he says.

The design process

Designed by architects at Schored Projects, the 20sqm studio-style tiny homes are north-facing units with solar hot water and are built to last.

One of the tiny homes being installed onsite. Picture: Launch Housing

The would-be tenants said they wanted something small that they could easily maintain yet would still allow them to put their own stamp on the property.

The passive design allows for cross ventilation and the units have added custom joinery for extra storage.

Each tiny home has a kitchen and living area, a mezzanine level, enclosed bathroom, a front porch and rear porch – both with space for a garden.

The units currently sit on Vic Roads land that won’t be needed for a decade, but the authority will give tenants 12 months’ notice should the land be required. Launch Housing will help the tenants find another suitable location if this happens.

Each resident is also offered support from a range of services to help them transition into the unit and become part of a community.

The tiny homes were constructed by Oscar Builders in Horsham, freighted to Melbourne and then lifted onsite by a crane.

Each of the nine sites presents its own engineering challenges for the team in terms of easements, establishing connections to water, sewage and electricity plus planning for extreme weather events such as floods and storms.

Launch Housing hopes this project is one that will take off and the next stage of the development will look at how to create units that better cater to the needs of older and disabled residents.

Creating communal meeting spaces within the tiny home villages is another feature that will be looked at in the future.

‘This place gives me hope’

For residents like Deborah, who has experienced homelessness since she was 13, the tiny home village gives her a place to call her own and the stability she needs

“I was always searching for somewhere that’s homey, where I can have a garden [and] a dog, where it’s safe,” she says.

“I feel like someone took me from, basically hell, and put me on this cloud of puffy niceness. I get to stay here for as long as I need to. It’s a really big gift [to have this home] and because it’s a gift, I want to take care of it.

“For the first time in a long time I feel like I’m in a stable environment …. I can look at becoming a peer support worker, or working in women’s shelters. That’s my goal in life, to help people. This place gives me hope,” she says.

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