I have very mixed feelings about tiny houses. I think they may serve the young, fit and healthy who live most of their lives outdoors, and may be an excellent short-term solution for these people. However, I believe they are entirely unsuitable for older people who do not have the health or balance to manage their lives in such a small space. They are not long-term, “age in place” accommodation.
One of the appeals is that they can be self-built, as is the case with the image above – courtesy Bettina Ralph.
I still fear that, by their very nature, tiny housing developments will turn into slums very quickly. There are already property developers jumping onto
the bandwagon and if the states change their building regulations to permit their use as permanent dwellings we are going to see a new class of exploitative “trailer parks” emerge.
But maybe my prejudice against them is nothing more or less than they look as if they are going to fall over. They defy the basic laws of nature.
What are tiny houses?
First we need to know what they are legally. Legally they are houses on wheels that can be towed by a normal road vehicle. They are below the legal size limit for a permanent dwelling, although many councils are turning a blind eye to them. They are not legal for living in permanently and those doing so could be caught out by a change in council policy and have to move on. Here is some good information on them from Slater and Gordon. They have general information and state by state regulations.
What are pre-fabricated houses?
Pre-fabricated buildings can be small, but are large enough to comply with state government and local council minimum size building regulations. Some are portable, in that they can be moved in their entirety on a semi-trailer, and some are built from pre-fabricated pieces. Typically these are very fast to build compared to conventional housing but can be just as sturdy. Prices vary from very low to something approaching standard costs to build a house.
A word of warning
If you like the idea of tiny houses, and many do, just take care with what you commit to. Most operators in this fields use terms like “under the radar”. Do not do anything “under the radar” (which means without asking council permission) if you are not in a financial or physical position to pick up your home and move on to the next place. You stand to lose your investment if you can’t move it in a hurry.
This also goes if you park on someone else’s land and they ask you to move on. You are in a similar position to those who place cabins or caravans with annexes in caravan parks. You have no protection from eviction beyond your current lease arrangements, and you need to know you have whatever it takes to move your “home” to a new location.