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Tiny homes open the door to a bigger life

Opinion

Embracing the tiny home movement can not only make home ownership affordable, it can also lead to a bigger life for occupants, writes Joanne Jakovich.

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Earlier this month, a double car park in Sydney was on the market for $400,000. In February, a single car-park in Potts Point – at just 15 square metres – sold for $190,000.

In Adelaide, a recent sale puts the price for a carpark in the city at $43,000 – quite the bargain, but still not a long-term accommodation option. Which brings us to what actually is an affordable option for people wanting to enter the real estate market – and perhaps buy a little more than a concrete slab on the fourth floor of a carpark off North Terrace?

Australia’s five major metropolitan cities have been classified as “severely unaffordable” for the past 12 years – and that includes Adelaide, a city that is loved by many a Gen-Y and Millennial.

The need for new options in affordable housing has never been greater.

The generational gap is widening, wages are declining, relative prices increasing, and most mortgages continue to go to existing home owners.

It is increasingly difficult for people renting to get into home ownership. There is a missing rung on the home ownership ladder.

Young people want the freedom that comes with being in control of their finances, and not at the mercy of the bank. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

The incentive behind our work at Big World Homes lies in the challenges for the younger generation in breaking into the housing market, faced with declining wages, increasing relative prices and the difficulty of obtaining mortgages.

This is where the tiny house movement comes in: a Big World Home is just 13.75 square metres, including a shower, toilet, open plan kitchen and living room (which converts to bedroom at night) for around $65,000.

It’s logical to think that a small home would mean limited possibilities – but the opposite is true.

It’s not just a hipster, greenie ideology coming to the suburbs. It’s a real way for people to get themselves into the home ownership gig without having to sell a kidney.

While tiny homes on wheels are not regulated as a permanent structure but are instead classified as a registered vehicle, there’s still some work to be done for planning authorities to catch up, with Queensland leading the way. Tiny homes without wheels are treated in the same way as other permanent structures: only Queensland has recognised them as a separate building category. One company is offering a new “tiny home insurance” product this year to keep up with market trends.

When we speak to the owners of tiny homes, we like to ask about their lifestyle, and how a smaller living space impacts on them, day-to-day.

It’s logical to think that a small home would mean limited possibilities – but the opposite is true. You see, a tiny home makes your own space functional, and the rest of the world accessible.

It removes the complacency barrier between you and the outside world, and forces you to think about how you interact with the wider world.

Tiny home owners live extraordinarily large lives, seeing more, doing more and experiencing more, because their homes stop becoming a comfort zone, and instead serve the purpose for which they were intended when our ancestors built the first shelter.

Small homes create big lives – for those who want more than evenings spent watching TV and wasted days on the couch.

Dr Joanne Jakovich is the co-founder of Big World Homes. She will be speaking at this weekend’s inaugural World Environment Fair at the Adelaide Showground.

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