Tiny houses down under

Image from The Loft.

The Tiny House movement has been quietly spreading around the country. Although they have different sizes, different layouts and made from different materials, they all have one thing in common – they are, well, tiny. Tiny Houses make use of every possible space in the house. They are practical and environmentally friendly.

Her Collective talked to Darren Hughes, coordinator of Tiny Houses Australia and a future tiny house creator, about why the movement is making waves.

Why are you opting to build a ‘tiny house’?

Following the devastating earthquakes in my hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand, the deterioration of my marriage and a close family member being diagnosed with breast cancer, I started to reassess my life, where it was going, what was really important to me, and what brought me joy and happiness. I have come to the realisation that for me, stuff really does not matter any more. It is just clutter that we buy often on impulse and use it only for a short time before it gets stored in a box in the garage or in a closet. I realised that what’s more important than your net worth, or the badge on the front of your car or the postcode at the end of your address, is the relationships that you have with the people you care about, and the experiences that you collect through your life.

What advantages would a tiny house have?

The advantages of Tiny Houses are many:

  • Cheaper to build
  • Faster and easier to clean
  • Cheaper and more economical to cool / heat
  • Less environmental impact
  • Less debt to be incurred by the house owner leading to a happier life
  • A more flexible adaptable lifestyle
  • Provides that cash flow and time freedom for people to enjoy doing what they want to do with their lives

Will the house be big enough for your family?

I am building “Tiny House Destiny” as a place that will comfortably suit a couple and two school aged children. I want to show the Australian public that a Tiny House can be totally suitable as a permanent home for a young couple / young family. My house will measure approximately 8m long x2.5m wide by 4.25m high and will have three separate sleeping lofts in the upper level, with a full kitchen, bathroom, office, living room and dining room on the lower level.

Image from The Loft.
Image from The Loft.

There is a range of tiny houses out there, how is your house going to differ from the other tiny houses?

Mine will be designed specifically for a couple and two school aged children. It will have a private space in the master bedroom where adults can stand up with full standing height to get changed. It will also be set up to be totally off the grid. Unlike most Tiny Houses that have just a single loft with a large open ‘great room’ with high ceilings, my house will have a full length loft along it’s entire length. This will encompass the three sleeping areas upstairs. I will also have French doors and several large sets of bifold windows that will be used to open the house up to the outdoors in the good weather.

What issues are tiny houses facing in Australia in terms of legislation? Is building a tiny house legal?

We know we can build them, we know we can move them legally on the roads from A to B. We also know we can insure them. The grey area is “Are they legal in the eyes of the council and will we get hassled from them?” The short answer is that councils in Australia do not know what Tiny Houses are, or how to classify them. If Tiny House builders want to get the golden seal of approval from their councils, then at this stage, that may be opening a can of worms (in my opinion). So for sometime yet, I believe that Tiny House builders will simply build their house, find an appropriate block of land (on the fringe of the city) and make a private arrangement with a land owner. They will then just live their life and stay under the radar and not make a ruckus and won’t do anything to draw attention to themselves. Over time, we hope that councils in Australia do start to re-address the archaic current building codes and consider the advantages and benefits that Tiny Houses can bring to Australian society.

Has the movement picked up in Australia compared to the US? How many people are actually starting to take this on?

There are thousands of tiny houses that have been built / are being built across the USA, but throughout there parts of the world (including Australia) the movement is only just beginning. Due to reasons listed above, not all Tiny House builders in Australia want to go ‘public’ with their project and prefer to stay under the radar and just get on with it and build their house and enjoy the benefits that living small will bring them. However, some choose to document their build via social media channels / blogs / websites etc. In Australia, at present there are around three to five people currently living in Tiny Houses with another 12-15 projects, that I am aware of, that are under construction.

It should be noted that the above numbers are for Tiny Houses on Wheels (as in Tiny Houses built on a trailer). Tiny Houses can take the form of these, but also caravans, house trucks, vans, converted buses, tents, Motorhomes and so on. There are many people living intentionally small in Australia and this number is definitely set to continue to grow in the years ahead.

What do you think? Would you live in a tiny house?

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