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Man standing on the porch of a tiny house

The big interest in tiny houses

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to revaluate the traditional take on the great Australian dream. You know, the one where hard work is all it takes to own a spacious home and a big garden for your kids to run around in? Well, it’s fast slipping through the hands of the average Australian, with the result being that we’re starting to think outside the box for our housing needs.

We already know that housing prices are at record highs and are still growing with no end in sight. However, a lot of Australians are also considering the major cost of a home on the environment, as they look to redefine property ownership. A growing movement believes that the big answer to both of these issues comes in a small package – live in a tiny house.

What? Why should I?

So, what exactly is a tiny house? Darren Hughes, founder of Tiny Houses Australia, claims that a tiny house is no more than 24 metres squared. ‘In the tiny house community, when we talk about a tiny house, we’re talking about a little house on a really big trailer,’ Hughes says.

Dr Kelly Miller, Senior Lecturer and Course Director for the Bachelor of Environmental Science (Environmental Management and Sustainability) at Deakin University, explains why the idea of tiny house living is currently taking hold of a global audience. ‘There are almost 7.5 billion people living on the planet and this is expected to increase to 9.7 billion by 2050. We all need somewhere to live, and there is evidence to suggest that smaller houses and apartments are becoming popular in Australia, but the reasons for this are many and varied,’ Miller says.

The benefits

The equation is simple. Smaller homes equal smaller bills and a smaller environmental footprint. According to Hughes ‘a DIY tiny house build could cost you anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000.’ Not to mention that your utility bills will be reduced to almost zero, as most tiny houses are built to be environmentally sustainable.

As Dr Miller explains, ‘our built environment has an enormous impact on our natural environment – our water, air, soils and biodiversity. The operation of buildings, for things like heating, cooling, lighting, accounts for up to 40% of our total energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions.’

Apart from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, living in a tiny house also offers the opportunity to potentially combat urban sprawl, and added personal benefits. ‘There are also significant benefits for people – with clever planning, people may be able to set up a tiny house in an area closer to their loved ones, their workplace. They can maintain important connections rather than having to move further away to more affordable areas,’ Dr Miller says.

'We all need somewhere to live, and there is evidence to suggest that smaller houses and apartments are becoming popular in Australia.'

Dr Kelly Miller,
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

The shifting attitude

This is the year where there will be more Australians who don’t own property than those who do. The general shift in attitudes towards property ownership is driving more and more people to consider alternative options. ‘Some people are driven by affordability but many are interested in reducing their environmental impact. Some are interested in spending their money on collecting experiences rather than things. Environmental concern tends to have peaks and troughs, depending on other priorities of the time. Hopefully what we are seeing now is a movement where large numbers of people start to think a bit more about what they really need to be happy and how this impacts the planet,’ Dr Miller says.

The price of home ownership, and the environmental impact are major factors in the tiny house movement, but the ability for personal growth through an uncluttered life is also a major draw card for those looking to downsize. Or as Hughes puts it, ‘It’s not really about the house at all.’

Interested in learning more about how we live can impact our environment? Check out Deakin’s Bachelor of Environmental Science (Environmental Management and Sustainability).

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Dr Kelly Miller
Dr Kelly Miller

Senior Lecturer, Course Director Bachelor of Environmental Science (Environmental Management and Sustainability),
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

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