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Think small: the tiny house trend


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There is a big movement growing in Australia – and it’s tiny.

Darren Hughes, founder of social media page Tiny Houses Australia, has gained more than 6000 followers in just one year.

Hughes started the page “almost as a scrapbooking site” to inspire his own dream of building a tiny house, but has instead become the “go-to man” for a movement that, at its heart, is a protest against the modern rat-race.

“Do I want to be spending all this time working for the man and paying this debt so that I can one day own this property?”

“There’s a shift. People are starting to question what life is really all about and what is really important and what they really want to be doing with their lives,” he says.

“Do I want to be spending all this time working for the man and paying this debt so that I can one day own this property?”

Australians live in some of the largest houses in the world, but in this harsh climate of budget pain, unaffordable house prices and huge debt, the idea of downsizing is striking a chord with a growing number of people.

After thoroughly researching the topic, Hughes is starting the build on his own little abode this year, and is looking forward to cutting down his monthly rent bill of $1500.
Greg Foyster, author of Changing Gears, stumbled upon the movement during a nine-month pedal-powered tour of Australia in 2012.

He came across a 10sqm house in miniature, made from clay and straw, just outside Castlemaine in rural Victoria. It cost a mere $5000 to build.

Bijou beauty: Michael Raftos of Melbourne with his pride and joy.

Michael Raftos of Melbourne with his pride and joy. Photo: supplied

Foyster’s quest was to write about the simple life. This house served as the perfect inspiration, and he has followed the movement closely ever since on his blog.

“A tiny house is a home pared back to its basic elements – a place to eat, sleep, relax and nothing more,” he explains. “There’s simplicity and beauty in that.

“Purchasing a palatial home often means forfeiting decades of your life to pay for it. The tiny house movement teaches us that you don’t need an excessively large home to be comfortable or happy.”

This quieter and simpler life sounds idyllic, but there are a few legal headaches.

If you want to build your tiny house the legal way (which we strongly recommend), it would be a good idea to contact your state’s building authority and your local council.

By all accounts, going legal is not cheap. There are bushfire, weatherproofing, dampness and a plethora of other building standards to adhere to. More information is available from the Building Code of Australia.

Many tiny homes are built on trailers as a way of getting around these building restrictions.

Those not on wheels are probably being built on the sly.

“It’s impossible to know exactly how many tiny houses there are in Australia because many of them would be ‘under the radar’ – dwellings constructed without proper permits, possibly off the grid in remote locations,” Foyster says.

“If you were going to build a house in the conventional fashion in line with the building codes, then yes, the associated costs such as land, council approval and utilities would still be substantial.”

Despite this, Foyster predicts that tiny houses will become more appealing as the typical house gets less and less affordable.

Of course, living in a tiny house isn’t for everyone, but the idea of simple living could be.

“The true value … is in convincing residents to live in homes that are much smaller than the norm, but not necessarily tiny,” Foyster says. “I see the tiny house movement as an advocacy tool, not as a practical housing solution for an entire population.”

You don’t necessarily have to cram your family of four into an illegal cubby hut in the middle of a muddy paddock somewhere to get into the vibe of the tiny house movement. It can simply be a timely reminder that a home should first and foremost be a cosy place to live, not a status symbol or a bankable asset.

“It’s possible to live in a very small home with less stuff and still be happy.”

This article was first published on The New Daily.

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