Crackdowns Continue on Christchurch Tiny Homes

The Christchurch City Council is outlining a set of guidelines that make it tougher for people to use shipping containers as homes. The crackdown is focused on the definition of what constitutes a building. Situations where a shipping unit was located in a home’s front garden, people were living on boats, or large caravans were blocking homeowners views have been called into question by Christchurch City Council and some residents who feel that shipping crates are an eyesore.


Individuals are using shipping containers for hire for a variety of different uses and one of the most popular is repurposing them as tiny houses. Shipping crates are being converted into homes with plumbing, electrical, air conditioning systems and other features that turn them into livable spaces.


After the Christchurch earthquakes, new construction was happening everywhere, and the loss of homes gave rise to the need for affordable alternative housing for those who were displaced. During new construction, temporary housing was common and the City Council was flexible in terms of what they allowed, to give people the opportunity to do what they needed to do in order to rebuild their homes. Now that the majority of the re-construction is complete, remaining shipping crates are being called into question.


The debate over what defines a home or a building is at the forefront of this issue and shipping crates are being considered as proper buildings, meaning they require a 1-metre setback and have a height limit of 8 metres. Buildings, as defined by the City Council, need to comply to certain rules, particularly when it comes to areas such as plumbing and sewage connections, electrical installations and power supply.


People who have already hired a container for use as a tiny home are understandably concerned over what new regulations will mean for them. Suppliers of shipping units for residential use are also worried about the future of their businesses if the City Council’s regulations make it too difficult to live in tiny homes.


Opponents of the Council’s crackdown on housing and building guidelines argue that the city should be applauding innovative ideas for sustainable housing that use fewer resources like water and power than traditional homes do. Supporters of using shipping crates for housing alternatives argue that Christchurch needs more options for affordable housing, not stricter guidelines that make it more difficult for people to live. Many people feel the City debating the definition about what constitutes as a house or building is a move in the wrong direction for a city who is trying to rebuild itself and should be focused on modern, sustainable, and affordable housing.


The Christchurch situation brings up a variety of interesting points that leave people everywhere debating the grey area of using portable shipping crates as homes.

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