The tiny-house movement is an architectural and social movement that encourages the theme of sustainable, off-grid living enabling financial prudence. It promotes living simply in a smaller space by choice. In contrast to that, here in South Africa, tiny houses have been in existence for ages.
Living large in a tiny home
Admittedly, I’ve become besotted with Bryce Langston and his Channel called ‘Living Big in a Tiny House’. Langston celebrates the diversity of tiny houses. Showcasing uniquely crafted homes-on-wheels parked on the most beautiful settings or built on a piece of land. Each episode delves into the design and purpose of the home showcased. Very so often with the theme of sustainable, off-grid living enabling financial prudence.
The founding father of the ‘Tiny Home Movement’ – Jay Shafer
In 1999, Jay Shafer published an article advocating simple living. Spearheading the Tiny Home Movement in America, he went on to start a company called Tumbleweed Tiny House Company in California. His houses encouraged a shift in the consumer-driven mindset for a more economically safe experience.
Tiny home living in Africa
While watching the latest episode, it dawned on me just how different our view of tiny house living is. In the developed world, it’s a novelty, a new trend that the flex socialites egg on. Yet, the tiny-house movement is an architectural and social movement. It promotes living simply in a smaller space by choice. In contrast to that, here in South Africa, tiny houses have been in existence for ages. The abolition of influx control laws led to the emergence of shantytowns in the cities. On the other hand, the homelands created by the Apartheid regime were densely populated. Extreme poverty, lack of industrial development and no growth, motivated inhabitants to leave.
No Spatial planning
Poor spatial planning caused a lack of housing which left many rural immigrants stranded. Housing became extremely unattainable. As a consequence backyard dwelling grew in popularity. Leading to a drastic increase in numbers all over our country. Walking in the various townships like Westbury and Alexandra in Johannesburg is evidence of this. Here you encounter the many Zozos sticking their tin roofs out as if to say, “here am I”. The Cape Province has its fair share of Wendy houses and bungalows, too. To think, these were meant to accommodate tools, not people. At present, South Africa suffers an acute housing crisis with millions of people desperate for homes.
Informal settlements are under threat
Both the private and public sectors have failed to close this massive lodging gap. Consequently, the vulnerable will continue to put up shacks wherever they find vacant land. Those fortunate enough with jobs, are forced to rent in somebody’s yard because they need to be close to work. I am reminded of Bulelani Qholani and the shameful way in which he was evicted from his home in the Western Cape. Bulelani stands as a symbol of the human rights abuses perpetrated against the poor and defenseless as forced removals and demolitions continue to persist. ᐧ
Africa’s tiny house reality
Our freedom Charter states: “All shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose”. I somehow fail to see this realized anytime soon. Cramped spaces made from reclaimed materials and cardboard boxes is the reality.
Situated in dirty and underdeveloped areas with no services. It fails to protect during harsh winters, frequent heavy rains and often gets destroyed by fires. It’s a far cry from the debt-free, mortgage-free, energy-efficient, sustainable version that the first world tiny homeowners are accustomed to.
*These are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Vannie Kaap News.