Student thinks small to beat rental trap

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 04/01/2014
Stefan Cook

A sequence of 1 minute interval gopro photos taken during a the construction of the tiny house frame. This tiny house is 8m long, 2.5m wide and 4m high. It's 20sq/m plus a 10sq/m loft.

Student building tiny mobile home
JOSEPH JOHNSON/Fairfax NZ
WHEELY SMALL: Christchurch student Stefan Cook is building his own "tiny house" after getting fed up with high rental costs.
Tiny house
Joseph Johnson
TINY: The yet-to-be-finished house is entirely mobile.

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Christchurch student fed up with high rental costs is building his own "cottage on wheels".

Stefan Cook is constructing the 2.5 metre by 8m transportable house in a bid to beat the rising cost of student housing and survive the Government's withdrawal of student allowances for those undertaking post-graduate study.

The 34-year-old geology student at the University of Canterbury said he had been paying up to $160 for a room in a Christchurch flat during the first two years of his bachelor's degree and expected his $15,000 project would pay for itself within two years.

"I think it's more of a movement in the [United] States; they're starting to call it 'tiny houses'. It's more like a cottage on wheels," he said.

The 4m high structure, which he hoped would be finished by February 17, did not require a building consent and could be towed on a normal car driving licence provided it weighed under 3500 kilograms.

The finished house would include a living area, kitchen, storage space, bathroom and loft-style bedroom, and would be powered using gas and solar panels.

The only thing missing was a washing machine, but Cook planned to use a laundromat or friends' laundry facilities.

"My friends think it's quite a different idea. I've talked to them about it and they've seen photos, but when they come here they're like: 'Oh right, this is pretty serious'."

Cook was not sure where he would keep the house when it was finished, but hoped to find an empty section close to university that he could park it on in exchange for grounds-keeping work.

University of Canterbury Students' Association (UCSA) president Sarah Platt said Cook was not alone in facing financial challenges because of Christchurch's post-earthquake housing issues and changes to student allowance eligibility.

"The UCSA is definitely aware that many students are facing a tough time."

Student housing in particular had been affected by changes in "supply and demand" and rising rental prices.

"There're more families moving into Ilam/Riccarton [post-quake] and landlords are more interested in families than students," Platt said.

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