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May 14, 2021

What are tiny homes the answer to?

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I read with interest, and some despair, the article (December 11) proposing tiny homes as an ‘affordable’ homes solution. The accompanying picture shows the limitations of this popular trend. The tiny home is a mobile solution best suited to emergency, short term, or tourist accommodation.

In NSW granny flats of up to 60m2 are a ‘permanent structure’ and offer better housing than a tiny home, whilst complying with the Building Code of Australia.

The lack of long term social cohesion and potentially inadequate lifestyle generated by clustering large numbers of random minimalist structures is not conducive to the health of our communities, social integration or to the occupants’ personal growth, in what inevitably are overcrowded sub-standard conditions.

The likelihood of ghetto style outcomes is very real in our monetarist based culture. We can do better than this. I have spent a lifetime designing smaller homes and group dwellings and I am prepared to liaise with and offer access to this body of work pro-bono to ‘not for profits’ or individuals in need.

Yes, we need local government to facilitate exemptions or modifications to what is allowable under their DCP and LEP provisions. This is ultimately controlled at State government level but wholesale changes to the Building Code of Australia are NOT needed and are unlikely to be approved in any great rush.

Yes, we need suitably identified land. We need an integrated design for a community that meets the needs of all occupants; a community not built around the car, but around people. We need an integrated social structure; old, young, wealthy, not so wealthy, families and singles (over 50 per cent of all households are two people or fewer).

So we need ‘smaller’ homes that feel like big homes that engage with the environment. Self powering, water efficient homes with water storage and waste management and with access to services, plus community gardens, workshops etc.

Regarding housing affordability, the problem does not rest in the ‘construction cost’ for homes. Building is always affordable, or can be, what is not affordable is the land. A base cost that is inflated (because it can be developed) plus council imposed contributions and infrastructure, all marked up from a total that includes huge bank loan interest rates PLUS a huge margin for the developer.

We need Council to access crown land or other low cost land devoid of ‘developer’ margins. We need a housing (rental) co-operative set up at the local level to oversee and own the project (and manage rental and emergency properties). This removes the ‘greed/profit’ motive.

We need sweat equity opportunities for part ownership of homes; we need guaranteed long term tenure for rental properties at ‘reasonable’ rentals. We need private ownership as well, both from the get go and as a transition during rental and, yes, we need emergency housing, as a transition.

The local community can do this, it just takes the will.

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