The tiny house movement in Australia is increasingly popular. It has been touted as a (part) solution to such intractable problems as housing unaffordability, urban sprawl, homelessness and unsustainable housing. Is this hype justified, and has the ‘love’ of tiny houses resulted in increasing numbers of tiny house dwellers?
This paper reports on a research project comprising three questionnaire surveys, social media analysis and informal interviews of those who love, live and leave tiny houses.
Demographically, those who lived in tiny houses were younger (under 30) or older (over 55). Most were single or couples, although a few had young children, and a cluster of single women over 55 was evident. The benefits of living tiny included reduced debt, being part of the tiny house community, sustainable living and the 'freedom' to move with one's own home. This freedom was often perceived rather than actual, as local government restrictions on tiny houses remains the most challenging barrier to tiny houses, and often the main reason for leaving for more conventional dwellings. Other issues included difficulties raising children in small spaces, especially in winter; and small space pragmatics such as composting toilets and cooking smells.
In conclusion, tiny houses offer some potential to improve housing choice for those who can afford the upfront cost, may offer low impact urban densification option and can foster more sustainable behaviours. This potential will however, not be achieved unless local and state governments regulate tiny houses as a lawful dwelling type.