REAL AUSTRALIA

Why the tiny home movement is here to stay. And why it's not so bad.

Our tiny home: something our children are going to have to get used to.
Our tiny home: something our children are going to have to get used to.

We bought a home two weeks ago.

No biggie, people buy homes all the time. Right?

Maybe not. Core Logic, the people who track these things, say their estimate of settled sales are down 10.5% year on year nationally. While interest rates are at their lowest level since the 1950s, affordability is an issue rife across Australia.

We left the UK almost three years ago. Yes, that's right I'm the Brexit refugee. Got me pegged? Good.

We sold our four bedroom, double garage, two bathroom, corner plot house in the North East of England. We sold our two cars. Most of our belongings and what we couldn't sell we gave away to charity shops and our friends and family.

Our family home in Wallsend.

Our family home in Wallsend.

We arrived in Australia with a hefty deposit, a strong exchange rate, healthy incomes, a heck of a lot of optimism and 16 boxes mainly full of musical equipment (my husband not me). But you know what, none of that was enough to buy like for like in the part of Australia we settled in (northern Illawarra).

This isn't a tale of 'woe is me'. More it's a tale of how this family had to make some hard choices and how it's likely that the generations that follow will likely have a very different idea of what housing looks like in Australia.

I'll take you back to the huge effort we had clearing out our house in Wallsend, North Tyneside (here's a google map link to help you orientate yourself. That's our old car in the Streetview and that hedge was a nightmare to cut. Never again.)

Packing up our massive house in Wallsend.

Packing up our massive house in Wallsend.

We had ALL THE STUFF. A lot of it we used occasionally or never at all. Getting rid of it was hard emotionally but physically getting rid of some of these things was near impossible without putting perfectly good things in landfill.

I wouldn't say I'm an eco warrior but I was brought up by a classic Scotsman who hated waste and I found it impossible to throw away perfectly good things. I learnt very quickly that things, even expensive things, were only valuable to me. No-one wants something used and it made me feel sick.

So, since we've moved to Australia we try, where we can, to buy second hand, recycle and upcycle. We use great resources like the Make-Do library of things, the Salvation Army, Gumtree and well, we just think twice before we buy something.

We're no Marie Kondos. Just last night I had to stop my husband buying his seventh surf board (he's only a learner, why would you need more than one?). I have two bikes in the garage and I quite fancy a third. Maybe Santa will bring one.

Anyways, back to the housing situation. The median house price in Woonona is $860,000. If you want to live near the ocean $1.3m is a starting price. Do you have that kind of cash?

I don't know many first time buyers in this market who have a deposit that will get them there. Certainly we weren't close and we had significant savings.

For us, it just wasn't going to happen. Then something amazing happened we spotted a villa. It had an ocean view, it was on a corner plot but it had a floor area of 148 square metres, even better the price tag had a six in front of it. Fine if you're a couple, but with two active boys? Could we do it?

Settled in our new tiny home.

Settled in our new tiny home.

Well, we're in that villa now. And you know what. It works. We have the beach as our garden, we have learnt to be respectful of the only toilet and we've learnt how to use noise cancelling headphones. Best of all we've discovered there are a number of families who have made a similar decision. Location over space, family closeness over empty room, less things over a garage full of stuff.

This week in Armidale a Year 12 student donated a tiny house to BackTrack, a charity who enables young people to get a start in life. The organisation is now looking for 12 more tiny homes for it's members. For many this will be there only chance of their own home.

In Boorowa Kathy McLennan has described her move to living in a tiny home. While the Devine family are leading the tiny home movement in the Blue Mountains.

House prices show no sign of slowing down. The dream of a 1,000 square meter plot will be unreachable for my children's generation unless there is a epic adjustment in the housing market. But you know what. Living in a tiny home ain't that bad.

Gayle Tomlinson

Head of Audience, ACM

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