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Tiny houses are popping up all over South Africa

As the “tiny house” movement sweeps across the world, the demand for luxurious, small homes is also growing in South Africa.

Top-end tiny houses are popular because they offer a cheaper way to get on the property ladder, and a way to pare down your life to the essentials – while still enjoying luxuries.

They are often immaculately designed, surprisingly extravagant, and optimised to use every square centimetre of space.

Simply put, a tiny home is a fully functioning house, but on in a much smaller scale. They are part of a global architectural trend, which is still growing in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Called the Tiny Movement, the trend embraces simple living by decluttering homes and downsizing on space.

In South Africa, high-end tiny homes are increasingly being erected in rural areas, often using shipping containers.

“Even though shipping container homes have been around for years, it has only been in the last five years that the building technique has become a viable alternative option,” says Deon van Deventer, founder of Container Home SA. His company has been making container homes from recycled containers in both Johannesburg and Cape Town since 2018.

Innovations like smarter power generation via solar and battery capacity storage, as well as low-energy LED lighting, dry toilets, improved insulation, and better water filtration systems have made for viable off-the-grid solutions.

The homes are also fast to build. And with most of the manufacturing being off-site, there is less mess on-site.

“There’s been quite a lot of demand for people looking to build holiday homes or add a separate flat in their backyard. We’re also getting requests from people that live far out of the city, where home owners have struggled to get a building contractor. Or it’s on a near impossible place to build - like plots that stand at a 45-degree angle - and a conventional build would cost a fortune to lay foundations,” says Van Deventer.

Homes can also be expanded in much the same way as Lego fits together.

While the average price of building a home from scratch can be anywhere from R6,000 to R8,000 per square metre, basic container units are usually much cheaper. In some cases, basic units can be comparable in cost to RDP housing, which starts from around R1,500 per square metre.

Van Deventer keeps costs low by recycling used containers and refurbishing them locally.

"We’re looking at between R70,000 and R80,000 for a brand-new container," while a second-hand unit may cost around R20,000.

Fitted out, a basic studio container home can come in at around R170,000.

Fancier container homes will be much more expensive, though.


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