Tiny homes could become more of a reality in the Riverina as housing affordability issues increase

TINY HOUSE TREND: Boorowa resident Kathy McLennan, with her dog Honey, lives in a tiny house and says she doesn't miss her four-bedroom home lifestyle. Picture: supplied
TINY HOUSE TREND: Boorowa resident Kathy McLennan, with her dog Honey, lives in a tiny house and says she doesn't miss her four-bedroom home lifestyle. Picture: supplied

Tiny homes might be making their mark overseas but legislation down under does not even consider these movable homes as buildings.

Small tracks are being left in the Riverina, but with housing affordability becoming a major issue local councils might have to adapt their policies to meet the growing needs of the population.

For Boorowa resident Kathy McLennan, building a tiny house was the best decision she has ever made.

"Two years ago I was sitting on the couch in my four-bedroom home on my own and I thought why, when I've only got myself to worry about," Ms McLennan said.

"So I decided to downsize and it took a while as I had to get rid of a lot of furniture and sort through clothes.

"It took about 15 months to sell my house, quite a while, so I just kept going through my belongings.

"If I hadn't worn or used something in the last six months it went, or if I wanted to buy something then I'd have to get rid of something," she said.

Ms McLennan said there were a few items in her tiny house that had to be included, but says she doesn't miss anything.

"It's great, wonderful and the best thing and it's so easy to clean, it only takes me 10 minutes despite having two dogs," she said.

"I really wanted to have a composting toilet and other features include double glazing, full installation, a washing machine mounted in the bathroom, a sky light, double-opening french doors, solar powered lights and when lights go out, I still have power.

"It's an eco, designer home and sustainability was the one thing that was important for me; I only want to step lightly on the earth and I want to be as self-sufficient as possible and a tiny house lets you do that naturally."

SNEAK PEEK: Kathy McLennan lives out the back of her dad's place in her custom designed tiny house and says she wouldn't have it any other way. Pictures: supplied

SNEAK PEEK: Kathy McLennan lives out the back of her dad's place in her custom designed tiny house and says she wouldn't have it any other way. Pictures: supplied

The tiny home is parked in her father's backyard and comprises of lots of storage, nooks and crannies as well as a chicken coupe.

"The house itself only took a month and looking into the future, I couldn't envision a time when I don't want to be living in a tiny house," Ms McLennan said.

"It was certainly a lot cheaper and it cost about $90,000.

"I think people are looking for sustainability and it's so much cheaper to get a tiny house and you can still get anything you want within reason, so why wouldn't you?"

Under NSW legislation, people are permitted to park their tiny house in a relative's back yard.

"My tiny house is parked in my dad's backyard in a fenced off area, so I'm pretty lucky," Ms McLennan said.

Wagga City Council city development manager Paul O'Brien said a tiny home with wheels is under a completely different legislation to tiny homes without wheels.

"Under the provisions of the Local Government Act, a movable dwelling isn't considered a building and so it makes it difficult for council to come to grips with them when it doesn't comply with the building code of Australia," Mr O'Brien said.

"If I owned a dwelling, regulation would allow a relative who wanted to park their tiny house in my backyard, but an unrelated person would not be allowed.

"If someone purchased a block of land and wanted to park their movable tiny home there, then council would need to asses whether it meets the streetscape and the guide that council has agreed to with the community."

Mr O'Brien said tiny houses on wheels are under the Local Government manufactured home estates, caravan parks, camping grounds and movable dwellings regulation act 2005.

"People are generally making an investment on the land and infrastructure they put on the land, but the question is: is it a dwelling that has wheels or a small home; as one is considered to be the same as a caravan and the other is a building," he said.

Property valuer Chris Egan said with housing affordability a major issue in Australia, the legislation might need to change.

"The demographics in Australia show that more people are living by themselves and maybe the Local Environment Plan isn't changing quick enough to accommodate this," he said.

"Housing affordability is a major issue and we don't want young people to be forced outside the real estate market and so maybe tiny homes are a way around this.

"A lot of generation Y's want a mansion straight away, which might not be as realistic as a smaller house, however these tiny homes could potentially be a good way to enter the market in a lower price bracket."

Wagga resident Dion Argus recently sold his tiny house and moved back into a regular sized home due to a growing family and there simply being not enough room.

ECO HUT: Kimo Estate's JR eco hut, named after James Robinson who part the Kimo farm together in the 1870s, and architecturally designed by Anthony Hunt and Luke Stanley. Pictures: supplied

ECO HUT: Kimo Estate's JR eco hut, named after James Robinson who part the Kimo farm together in the 1870s, and architecturally designed by Anthony Hunt and Luke Stanley. Pictures: supplied

Boutique accommodation Kimo Estate, near Gundagai, features an eco hut, with more on the way, which is made from Australian sustainable hardwoods.

"They're completely off-grid and the solar system runs the whole show there and they collect their own rain water," said owner David Ferguson.

"We have one completed and some are due to come online in the next few weeks and a third one is going to following, which we're pitching for the start of April.

"We've had a huge response; it was a slow start but then in a very short amount of time it went to about 80 per cent occupancy and now we're running at about 100 per cent over the next three months."

While Mr Ferguson's tiny structure is considered a building under NSW legislation, he said the tiny house movement is slowly gaining momentum.

"I think in Australia it's still got a lot to play out as I think it is still very much an American idea, with the Europeans starting to get into it," he said.

"A lot of our exposure has come from American based sites and you see people in Victoria doing some off-grid housing as well as better insulated prefabricated homes.

"If you don't have the people to design these things it's very hard for it to get off the ground and I also don't think people know what they want until they see something."

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