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A Eco house on a limited budget

Translation was done by Elsa Coetzee

A housebuild project under a limited budget

This is a blog about our search for the answer to the question: of whether it is still possible for the middle-income person in South Africa, to build a eco house on a very limited budget.

Banks in South Africa only grant a loan of a certain amount to a family’s total income. In today’s standards, however, this amount does not reflect the reality of what is available in the housing market, and this, of course, in turn, excludes certain sections of the population from the privilege of owning a home.

In South Africa we have the following accommodation available:

🔸 Government housing (RDP houses) – excludes certain sections of the population

🔸 Middle income housing

🔸 Higher income housing

Counting on the amount allowed to middle income families, we decided we would have to start looking at:

🔸 The price of standard 3-bedroom houses: whether detached or in security areas

🔸 Areas where one can buy land available for single dwelling development and where

🔸 The cost of building outside of big cities.

I have been researching for years, dwellings that tread lightly on the earth, which means that we need to make our carbon footprint as small as possible. Do we really need all the luxuries to be happy and functional? Can we try to be more self-sufficient with simple steps? These were just a few questions we have been asking ourselves for a long time. And what does it mean for you to be less dependent on, for example, our electricity supply, water in situations like the severe drought that Cape Town suffered? The ideal is surely to learn to live off the grid… meaning, learning to grow our own vegetables and fruits economically on a small scale. It brought us to the point of realizing that, to find out, is to build it ourselves.  

Those of you who have read my previous blogs, will know that we travel a lot and that many of our tours, in Namibia etc., are long tours. It was while driving for long distances that we began to realize that we can actually get by with very little. I would venture to state that most of us who love traveling and camping, have played with the idea of scaling down, living more simply and, especially, going for smaller.

So here are the facts.

I started looking at everything that is offered to the middle-income person e.g. how would the person’s lifestyle be influenced by the house in which he lives.

Calculated at the old interest rate of about 20 years ago, the repayment against your home loan means that you will repay it at 2.5 to 3 times added to the initial amount of your home. This can be an astronomical commitment for the middle-income person, especially the household on the lowest bracket of said income. This fact is the main reason why most South Africans can only rent a house. But the problem is that rents have slowly but surely begun to overtake the buyer’s market. It just started to get too expensive for certain households to rent. This leaves them with very limited choices to get a roof over their heads. Some go stay with family or move to areas that are more affordable but, usually, not safe.

In South Africa, the “Tiny House Movement” has not yet found a foothold like overseas. So, this is not an option.

In my research I have found that the more self-sustaining you want to live, the more expensive the whole project becomes. Solar power is not necessarily cheap, but our country’s electricity supply is not currently reliable. South Africa is also a water-scarce country and because dams are not built and huge population growth one will have to think of alternative means of saving on housing.

It was with these questions in mind that we began to consider what we will have to do and proceed if we want to re-enter the real estate market, and this was the point where our project was conceived. We wanted to see if it was possible to build on a very limited budget and what we would get for that amount. This entailed of course finding out which building methods, materials and plans etc. can be applied that also complied with the building regulations.  

Our decision was to kick off our project with a good look at an Eco-house. It needed to be small but must still offer maximum comfort and we aim to make best use of available space by incorporating the garden as best we can to form a unit – a natural extension of the house – so as to speak. It was important to us to have it built in such a way that, in the long run, it can provide us with electricity, extra water-savings and also the option to practice hydroponics and make vegetable gardens. I will discuss these plans in my follow-up blogs.

The adventure has begun

About Helma

My husband and I love to travel in Southern-Africa. We are both amateur photographers and also love building, woodworking and projects around the house. / Ek en my man reis baie graag deur Suider-Afrika. Ons is albei amateur fotograwe. Dan is ons konstant besig met nuwe projekte, hetsy dit houtwerk, bouwerk of huisprojekte is.

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