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"Tiny houses" idea for SA's homeless in running for funding

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Would you host a homeless family in your backyard for five years if you received a tiny house, for free, in return? The concept is among the top entries in the running for a $100,000 SA innovation start-up prize.

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In March, the State Government and online accommodation giant Airbnb committed $50,000 each in prize money for the ‘Share’ challenge, aimed at promoting innovative “sharing economy” ideas to make use of underused resources.

The competition received 125 entries.

The top 10 entries have now been revealed, including a concept to provide tiny houses for Adelaide’s homeless, an app that matches refugees with spare rooms, and a website to help disability sector organisations share their special transport vehicles.

Roger Hunter told InDaily his entry, riding the wave of the “tiny houses” movement, could see less public money spent on emergency accommodation for people experiencing homelessness and more on “preventative”, longer-term accommodation – i.e., a tiny house.

Under his concept, a not-for-profit would build the tiny house in willing South Australians’ backyards, under the condition they allow a homeless family, or, for example, a single mother escaping domestic violence, to live there for five years.

After that period the tiny house would be handed over to the backyard owner for free.

“There’s a massive asset in back gardens,” said Hunter.

“If we can actually provide cheap housing that people would actually want to live in … then lots of other things would fall into place.

He added: “We need to find a way to break the cycle (of homelessness).”

“The money that would normally be spent on … emergency accommodation can be spent (in other ways).”

Hunter said he came up with the idea five years ago, when he was building a granny flat for his mother and grandparents to stay in when they visited from overseas.

Another entry proposes a mobile app to link refugees with South Australians who were prepared to offer a spare room in exchange for 15 hours of weekly work.

It presents potential competition to Airbnb’s Open Homes platform, through which people can offer free accommodation to refugees in their houses, which launched last month.

One of the mobile app’s developers, Kathy Smart, told InDaily the concept would help not-for-profit organisation, Refugees Welcome Australia, match appropriate accommodation with refugees in South Australia.

She said a working relationship with the refugee would provide an additional incentive for potential hosts.

“Some people want aged care, some people want child-care, some people want help around the house,” said Smart.

She said the concept would need significant safeguards to protect both refugees and homeowners from exploitation, and that there would have to be regular visits from government social workers to ensure the placement is appropriate and all parties are supported.

The top 10 finalists will now take part in a two-month “acceleration program” to refine their ideas and develop commercialisation strategies.

Images from the top ten ideas in the Share challenge.

They will then pitch their ideas at during the Open State festival, which runs from 28 September to 8 October in Adelaide.

Premier Jay Weatherill said the “share economy” was “changing our marketplaces and our networks”.

“Rapid advances in technology, including social media, are enabling more of us to make the most of existing resources,” he said.

“The final 10 ideas in the Share Challenge show how limitless the opportunities are in this space.”

The other finalists can be found at the Share challenge website.

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