Tiny answer to big problem
ARE you female and over 45? The new face of homelessness is increasingly single older women who don't own a home.
Typically earning less than men over their lifetimes, being employed in less secure part-time or casual work and often taking time out to raise a family leaves many women vulnerable as they age.
Coffs Harbour businesswoman Kim Connolly is actively addressing this big problem with a "tiny” solution.
"When I was president of the Business & Professional Women's Association Coffs Harbour we hosted affordable housing forums and the feedback was overwhelming,” Ms Connolly said.
"Many single women over 45 were approaching, or already in, retirement and saying they were fearful they'd be homeless in the near future.
"These women have a bit of money; not enough to buy a home but too much to receive benefits. This means they are stuck in the middle, forced to spend what little superannuation they have on high rentals until that money runs out. Some were already couch surfing and many were in tears talking about the situation.
"It makes me angry that older women who have worked all their lives, taken care of children and ageing parents are ending up with little superannuation to show for their years of service and are on the brink of homelessness.”
Ms Connolly did more than get angry; she started on a practical solution. Her big idea was to think "small and affordable” and Tiny Habitat Homes was born.
"Every one said I was crazy, especially my hubby,” she said.
Her husband is long-time local builder and successful businessman Brian Hopwood.
"At first he hated the idea, especially when I told him my short time frame and that I could get it started by watching YouTube videos. Turned out he was so right and I was so wrong.”
Fast forward 12 months and Brian is 100 per cent on board and more than proud of what has been accomplished.
"He is over the moon, astounded with the result of our first Tiny Habitat Home,” Ms Connolly said.
"From concept to realisation my builder, Nathan Martin, and personal assistant, James Tanner, have both been amazing.”
With French doors, vaulted ceiling, timber floor, loft sleeping, dual-aspect windows, inset lighting, dormer windows and great storage, this tiny home may be short on square metres but it's big on style and functionality.
"This first house has a sleeping loft, but we are in the process of designing our next house with a Murphy bed downstairs instead which will better suit older people,” Ms Connolly said.
"Doing custom builds means we can work with anyone to design to their specific needs.
"The only difficulty for some will be once you buy a tiny home is where to put it.”
She has also been working on that issue.
"We are seeking expressions of interest from older women who would like to be part of a local Tiny House Village Co-operative pilot program. This would be a community of about 15, mostly owners of tiny homes,” she said. "I've secured the spot, the next step is to get the go-ahead from council.”
See the first tiny display home Saturday and Sunday 11am-2pm at rear of Brian Hopwood Homes, 101 West High St, Coffs Harbour.