How and why tiny houses are increasing in popularity in Australia
The tiny house movement is a reasonably new concept to many Australians. Many people are familiar with the television shows on our lifestyle channels that feature, predominantly American, couples building or renovating tiny houses to live in permanently. The concept allows people to simplify their lives by living minimally and within their means. There are many financial benefits to shifting to this style of living, but the most appealing influence to most who live tiny, is the lifestyle.
Living in a tiny house means having less stuff in general; less to clean, less to organise, less to worry about. The idea of having less provides you more time for other things. Rather than spending hours on your weekends cleaning spaces in your homes that are rarely used or organising things that are not particularly necessary in your life, you will have time to do what truly brings you joy; spending time with your loved ones, travelling, painting, hiking or just relaxing! Those of you who have been on camping trips will understand the sense of relief that comes with the simplicity of just having what you need. Living in a tiny home encapsulates this concept on a full-time basis but it also includes the comforts of living in a full-sized home.
I am currently building a tiny house to live in. To me, the idea of moving into a tiny dwelling is very exciting but also very daunting. I came across tiny homes when I was considering options for flexible living in a variety of locations. I wanted to temporarily move closer to my family but also remain independent. I also wanted the flexibility to move to other locations around Western Australia, but not be locked into rental contracts or rely on family and friends to ‘put me up’ for a few months at a time - we all know how quickly that could go wrong! I mean, I’m sure I would be a wonderful guest, but we all need our space at times (especially me), and I want to maintain a space that I can call my own.
When exploring my options, a tiny house was a far more appealing concept to me than a caravan or living in a van. Just like many others, I like some of the modern creature comforts in life so I wasn’t willing to give up everything I currently enjoy in my home. My tiny house will include a full-sized shower, fridge, washing machine, 3 seater couch, a large kitchen sink and a queen-sized bed. I will have all the comforts of any home including a reverse cycle air conditioner, a gas hot water system, a 32-inch television, an oven and a two-burner hot plate. These things will be carefully placed in a uniquely designed space that includes tap fittings, cabinetry, tiles and bench tops that have all been carefully selected by me, to suit my needs and style. A contemporary, transportable space that is truly my own!
Tiny homes can also provide us with options to significantly reduce our environmental footprint in the way we live. The smaller space requires less energy to run it. There are tiny homes that are completely ‘off grid’, generating enough solar energy to power the whole home all the time. Tiny homes are usually fitted with composting toilets, a system that saves a significant amount of water and doesn’t require a black water tank. Instead, the ventilated toilet composts the human waste in the system and when full, the compost can safely be buried in gardens or added to larger compost heaps.
Of course, there will be many changes to how I live, when living in a tiny home. I am curious to see how I cope with changes such as the composting toilet, sleeping in a loft and I have a lot to learn about transporting my 5.4-metre-long, 2.5-metre-wide, 4.1-metre-high, 3.5 tonne tiny house. However, I believe, that with the changes will come a great sense of freedom and adventure and I am excited about sharing my journey with others who may be interested in doing something similar.
Tiny home living provides people with another option in the difficult world of housing. Many people are purchasing tiny homes for their dependants; an elderly or teenage family member who need their own space but who also need to remain close to the family home. It is a far cheaper option than adding extensions to a home that may not be needed long term. Others are moving their whole family into a tiny home. Creating a space that fits families of five or more. In Australia, where we have plenty of land and space, it is a very different concept to living to what we have typically been exposed to. Tiny home living is less about real estate and more about lifestyle. It may not be the lifestyle for everyone but to have it as an option for those who it may suit, is a very innovative and exciting prospect.
Although the lifestyle of tiny living offers many freedoms, those who wish to take on this way of living are still facing many constraints in meeting planning regulations, which can make things very difficult for those wishing to explore the option of living tiny.
Currently there is no specific legislation for tiny homes in Australia. Tiny homes built on wheels fall under caravan regulations and those in a fixed location must meet building codes and be approved by local councils. If the tiny house is licensed as a caravan, then it can only be occupied for 60 days within a 12-month period on one particular property causing issues for those who wish to permanently reside in a tiny home. The tiny home movement, however, is gaining traction with several councils around Australia considering the development of legislation around tiny home living. It will be interesting to see the developments that may come in the near future.
Despite the difficulties with legislation, the tiny house movement has well and truly begun in Western Australia and is quite established in the Eastern states. It is being considered as another living option for the elderly and teenage dependants, a cheap solution for housing for the homeless, a great option for holiday accommodation, an alternative for travellers and an ideal selection for those who wish to simplify their lives and live more minimally. The lifestyle offers flexibility, financial freedom, sustainable living and simplicity. It is simply another modern option for Australian living.