Why Micro Houses? Why Not?

Why Micro Houses? Why Not?
Urban Editorial July 25, 2018

Micro houses, or tiny houses, have taken the internet and the real world by storm. These miniature dwellings take up no more land than a bedroom or two, instead utilising clever design, multiple functionality and innovative storage solutions to make them fully sustainable as long-term homes.

Eco friendly

As well as being better for the back pocket, micro houses are often carbon neutral or highly environmentally friendly, and most are transportable which means your home can be anywhere in the world that you choose. Without the space for clutter, it encourages a more ethical and considered approach to consumerism. Tiny home owners learn to reuse, recycle and repurpose, rather than waste. Added to that, there are far fewer resources which go into the construction and maintenance of this style of living. From a glance, it seems like learning to live in smaller spaces while making do with fewer things could be way of the future, and a way in to homeownership in a time of housing affordability uncertainty.

In Demand

It seems like the market is ripe for the tiny houses trend. Single person households are only set to continue growing, and people are more and more eager to move closer to the CBD. There’s obviously only a certain amount of ground space available, so it makes sense that developers should be looking to capitalise on smaller apartments and housing. The advantages of small housing are plentiful, and one of the main ones is that it allows people to live much closer to the culture, amenities, institutions and lifestyle that big cities can offer. There is a demand for small homes which incorporate good design and don’t necessarily mean that you have to compromise the way you live your life.

Doing More with Less Space

While Australia is one of the most spacious countries on the planet, there is still high competition to reside in those desirable areas: on the beach, on the river, or in the heart of the city. And we are naturally moving away from the Great Australian Dream of a large backyard and a full-sized family home. Block sizes are becoming smaller as owners choose to subdivide, backyards are being traded for courtyards, and land ownership is being traded for a floor in an apartment building.

Restrictions and Roadblocks

But the fact of the matter is that tiny houses remain off the table for so many of us because of planning regulations which exist across Australia. On top of this, some banks refuse to lend for houses of less than 50 square metres. Why is there such a push back when it seems like this could be the answer to our housing affordability problems?

Most of the hesitation seems to stem from predictions of how allowing the widespread development of tiny houses would actually play out. Developers and legislation makers alike have noted that while good design can make a tiny house a smart investment, most of the ones that will be built are like to cut corners and be cramped, predicting plummeting values when those first owners look to sell. Some have gone so far to say that allowing micro houses to be developed will create the slums of tomorrow.

But designers disagree, and retaliate that this thinking is stunting our creativity, our ability to move forward, and our ability to come up with a viable solution for the housing affordability crisis. When viewing some of the floor plans and rendered model of micro houses, it becomes apparent that there is endless opportunity to think creatively, and design well, when you’ve only got a small space to work with. From fold out tables, to mezzanine beds and multipurpose furniture, the sky’s the limit. While these features might initially appeal to students, graduates and alternative thinkers, there is certainly a place for tiny houses in the mainstream.

Others have argued that placing restrictions on apartment and house sizes means that a desirable lifestyle is only attainable for the already wealthy. Just as we have the freedom to choose a hatchback or an SUV, we should too have the option to buy housing on the smaller end of the scale if we choose.

But those fears do serve as a warning, that new homeowners, whether building or buying, should always think carefully about their investment for long-term profitability. While there are plenty of advantages of small housing, good design for these dwellings is even more important.

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