Lack of clarity on tiny homes rules

Andy and Kristin Lawrence.
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Orders are growing at a Chertsey tiny home building enterprise, and could grow even more in future after a visit from Rangitata MP James Meager.

Andy and Kristin Lawrence established A & K Tiny Homes in 2022, after a client of their motorhome repair business asked them to build one.

‘‘It’s an interesting concept without being outside of what we do; it made logical sense to have a try,’’ Andy said.

The made-to-order business was now ‘‘into double digits’’ with the number of homes it had built and supplied to customers around New Zealand, from Invercargill to Mangawai.

However, Andy said the industry nationwide was ‘‘volatile’’. Despite a tiny home movement growing around the world, demand was restricted in this country for a variety of reasons.

‘‘Right at the moment they are still very much a toy of the rich,’’ he said.

There was a lack of clarity on whether tiny homes were subject to building and resource consents, and differences between councils as to how they approached the consent rules.

Tiny home owners have been pushing for a nationwide lowcost compliance framework, and presented a petition to Parliament in 2020.

Meager visited A & K Tiny Homes last week, and listened to Andy and Kristin’s concerns.

After the meeting, Meager told The Ashburton Courier he was keen to explore how the Government could make sure regulations did not unnecessarily restrict housing supply.

He would consider presenting a member’s bill on tiny home legislation for the Parliamentary ballot. Members’ bills are from MPs who are not ministers. They go into a biscuit tin and when space is freed up on Parliament’s order paper, one is drawn out of the tin. It is up to chance whether it gets drawn from the tin, and up to Parliament if it is passed into law.

‘‘If there is scope for legislating in this space, I would be keen to pursue it with my caucus colleagues,’’ Meager said.

Meanwhile, Andy and Kristin’s goal is to keep the sale price of each of the homes they build to less than $100,000, filling a niche for comfortable and affordable self-contained living. Ranging in size up to 10m long, they are on trailers with wheels so they can be towed to their destination. They can operate off the grid, featuring solar panels and compostable toilets.

Clients include one recently whose house burned down and insurance did not pay enough to rebuild the house, so he bought two tiny homes to put on his section.

Others included people who needed somewhere to live on their section while they were building a home, parents providing living space for adult children, and people in campgrounds upgrading from caravans.

They have a supplier in China which makes the printed steel exteriors, which get shipped in flat packs.

The printed pattern can be one of 40 different colour and texture types including schist, timber and brick.

The rest they build themselves.

Andy does most of the building work, fitting each one out with the help of a full-time contractor.

The couple have two young children.

An added benefit of getting into building tiny homes for Andy was it was home-based, whereas repairing motorhomes had necessitated being away overnight.

‘‘It’s flexible, it’s working at home, so I get to see my kids.’’

Alongside being busy with their business, the Lawrences are involved in the Ashburton A & P Association. Kristin has been an equestrian convenor at the show for about five years. Andy is the junior vice president, and set to be the president of the association in the year it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2027.

Tiny Homes interiors from A&K Tiny Homes of Chertsey
Tiny Homes interiors from A&K Tiny Homes of Chertsey