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Ben's ark

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From shipping containers to DIY shelters for the homeless, people from all walks of life are using creativity to solve their, and New Zealand’s, rising housing crisis.

Currently one in 100 Kiwis have been set adrift and have nowhere to live. In our city centres people are sleeping rough on the streets, in cars or, through the goodwill of friends and relatives, couch-hopping and living ‘temporarily’ in garages.

And the future isn’t looking too bright for them, the homeless, working poor, families and first home buyers. The once lauded Kiwi dream of owning your own home complete with white picket fence is fading away and, for some, shape-shifting into a nightmare where having a well insulated roof over your head is considered a luxury, not a right.



Photo by Chris McKeen/Fairfax NZ


New Zealand house prices (and rents) look set to continue skyrocketing this year. Coupled with a growing population, insecure tenure and greater housing intensification planned by local councils, New Zealand’s current lack of affordable homes to buy, and space in which to build them, will become an even greater problem.

According to media reports during the last three months of 2016, the New Zealand government severely underestimated how many homeless people urgently needed a roof over their heads. They budgeted $2 million in 1400 grants for homeless people to stay in motels, but actually spent $7.7m on 8860 grants.1

This was no doubt impacted by the gradual loss of social housing units, when the government reduced the social housing stock by more than 2000 between 2008 and 2016.


"It is a sad indictment on our country that there is a growing number of people sleeping rough on the streets, in cars, or in garages. We need to do everything we can to at least provide people with safe shelter."

Māori Party Co-leader Marama Fox2



Photo by Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ


It’s not rocket science to predict that housing will be THE biggest election issue this year.

Rather than waiting for the incumbent government to solve the rising housing crisis, some Kiwis are already ‘thinking outside the housing box’ and metaphorically building their own arks. They are:

  • Buying land and waiting to build because they can’t (yet) afford the house

  • Buying land and moving their caravan/trailer/horse-float on to it, and setting up house

  • Downsizing the Kiwi quarter acre section dream and moving into apartments

  • Co-housing – joining forces and buying and living together communally


And as the average square meterage per house continues to shrink, others are also designing and building tiny, smaller homes as in George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces popular television series, and rethinking traditional housing materials. How much space do you really need to live in? Who needs wood? Let’s use a shipping container!

Most of these solutions, admittedly, still require people to have a reasonable amount of cash on hand, and some skill with a nail gun. But, have you heard about Ben Sampy, a homeless man, who inventively used real estate signs, duct tape, zip ties, and a dash of good ol’ Kiwi ingenuity to build himself a mobile, homeless shelter that only cost $200? (Side note: It also happens to look like a bird’s skull).


BenSampy ByRebekahParsons King TheWireless LeadinBen Sampey in his shelter.
Photo by Rebekah Parsons-King/The Wireless


Ben credits taking art at school for teaching him to think outside the norm. “Art school taught me to approach things a little bit differently to most people...It taught me to treat things like a painting, a problem to be solved.”*

His micro-shelter is a creative solution he’d one day like to reproduce for others.



Learn how to think creatively like Ben. Call The Learning Connexion School of Art & Creativity on 0800 278 769, or request a prospectus to find out more.




1 Source: www.maoriparty.org

2 Source: TVNZ News (27 Feb 2017)

* Quote from thewireless.co.nz


  • Violet
    30/04/2017 10:35am (7 years ago)

    Dear brother,
    There are many who live homeless lives and don't even realize it. They think the more they keep up with Joneses no one will notice. Jesus and his disciples lived very very poorly a lot different than how the clergy and church ministers live today. I can help you by offering you blessed hope in my Lord Jesus. That there will be a day He will come for his children to live eternally with him. No more cold nights, hungry nights and tears. You don't realise how free you are. My friend if you have a bible I encourage you to read. Start in Matthew and read and watch how Jesus had a heart for the poor, for the prostitutes, for the sick and diseased. Seek His face through his Son and written word. That is all you need my friend. I love you and so does Jesus. God Bless you my friend.