Ikea Develops Refugee Housing

Ikea, known for cheap, put-it-together-yourself furniture made for small apartments, has turned its eyes to a global problem -- temporary shelter for refugees. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that there are around 10.4 million refugees worldwide, most living in camps of makeshift tents. The 50+ year civil war in Sudan created hundreds of thousands of displaced South Sudanese and Darfur citizens, who are now leaving their temporary camps to come back home. The DR Congo has an enormous refugee population, and Syrian refugees are nearing 10% of the population of neighboring countries.

Shockingly, most refugees live in "temporary" camps and tents for an average of 12 YEARS. The makeshift homes currently being used, however, are not equipped to last that long.

“Quite frankly, the tents haven’t evolved much over the years,” says Olivier Delarue of UNHCR. “They still rely on canvas ropes and poles.” These rudimentary shelters are small, provide little privacy for families and are meant to only last around six months."

Enter The Ikea Foundation's solution -- an affordable, easy to build shelter that can be assembled and used long-term, then broken down and moved somewhere else when it's no longer needed. 


Shipped in cardboard boxes and pieced together with allen wrenches and other simple tools, these Ikea houses could revolutionize the way refugees are housed internationally. Right now, only around 100 of these units have actually been produced and are being tested in Ethiopia and Lebanon, with a market-busting price of $7,500. But, the Ikea Foundation hopes that it can get the price to around $1,000 in mass production. It still sounds expensive, but the average heavy duty canvas tent costs around $500 and breaks down much faster.

What do you think? Could these actually scale and solve a global problem?