A tiny solution for a big problem?

A different approach to the ongoing housing crisis.

Apartments at Ahad Ha’am Street in Rehavia. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Apartments at Ahad Ha’am Street in Rehavia.
Together with many others, Jerusalem- based entrepreneur Akiva Ben-Ezra, 22, identifies a recurrent problem: Everyone is struggling with housing costs.
Influenced by this well-known and much discussed issue, Ben-Ezra, who made aliya seven years ago from Richmond, Virginia, thinks he has a solution, a tiny one: He’s currently running a Cause Match campaign to raise money to build a model of a “tiny house” on wheels, suggesting it as a temporary possible way out for hopeless Israelis.
After completing the army and yeshiva studies, Ben-Ezra is now the owner of an online marketing company. However, he insists that the tiny house project is a nonprofit endeavor.
According to the video that accompanies his crowd-sourcing campaign, “A tiny house is a global phenomenon of self-sustaining, eco-friendly homes that provide for their owners’ every need.” And indeed, the tiny house movement has lately given rise to two American television shows – Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunting, numerous blogs, a podcast and at least one tiny house company.
While the tiny house movement is primarily US-based, tiny house projects have been launched in Japan, Spain, Britain, Germany and Russia.
The Tiny House Israel project works in cooperation with St. Mark’s Universal Schools. STMUS is a US-based nonprofit educational organization.
As part of their mission, STMUS teaches construction skills to at-risk youth and encourages the development of practical, hands-on solutions for the problems of everyday life.
Ben-Ezra believes that with some adaptations, the international tiny house movement could provide a solution for Israel’s housing crisis. “We’re building on an existing idea, trying to bring it to Israel,” he remarked.
Most tiny houses are built of wood, but that won’t work in Israel, where wood isn’t as readily available. That’s why the team is designing their prototype Israeli tiny house based on metal. An emphasis on green technology will also be a focus of their model.
The tiny houses will be supplied with electricity from solar panels, and similar to existing recreational vehicles (RVs), they will be equipped with water tanks that will need to be filled up every so often. Sewage will also use existing RV technology, with periodic emptying.
What then is the difference between an RV and a tiny house? According to Ben-Ezra, RVs are more aerodynamic and lightweight than tiny houses, making them ideal for travel. However, they are not designed for full-time living and may lack important features, such as adequate insulation.
For a permanent housing solution, tiny houses have several advantages over RVs. Tiny houses are built using traditional housing materials and techniques, so they have more of a homey feel and look. At the same time, in most cases, a tiny house can still be easily moved to a new location.
Tiny houses, which can be up to 46 square meters, generally also have more amenities than RVs and are aesthetically similar to larger homes. Once the tiny house prototype is built, the plan is to showcase it around the country.
Ben-Ezra says that one of his first stops will be the Knesset. The plan is to have the first unit built before Rosh Hashana.
The next goal, after building the prototype, is to build tiny-house communities. Admittedly, zoning for tiny houses is difficult in Israel, so, for now, they have to be parked on private land.
The optimistic Ben-Ezra anticipates that it will cost $30,000 a piece to build the first ones.
If the project takes off, they might be able to drop the cost of each unit to $15,000, he says.
All that is left now is for us to wait and see whether this is another optimistic dream or a realistic possibility.