There’s never been a better time to go tiny
What was once the domain of just a few hippies living in rundown caravans scattered across the country is now a genuine movement. Google ‘Tiny House New Zealand’ and you’ll get pages and pages of hits, from Facebook pages set up to connect people who are interested in tiny house living, to building companies whose sole focus is tiny houses.
You’ve probably noticed house prices are increasing. In 2016, the average New Zealand house price passed the halfmillion-dollar mark, and if you’re wanting to build a new home, it’s a standard cost of $2500 per square metre.
It follows that a smaller house will cost less, and tiny houses are less costly for the planet too, using fewer materials, and creating less pollution and rubbish in the process. A 2006 study for North Shore and Waitakere City Councils estimated that the building and demolition industries contributed around 50% of the total waste stream in New Zealand, so the choices you make regarding your home – the materials it’s made from and, above all, its size – are incredibly important.
One of the reasons the construction industry has such a huge environmental impact is that houses are getting bigger and bigger. If you built an average-sized new house in the 1950s, your home would have been about 117m². These days, you’d be building more than 205m². The trend shows no signs of slowing down.
While houses have been swelling by an extra 75%, the families in those houses have actually been shrinking, with the average New Zealand household now numbering one less person than in the 1950s.
It makes sense for practical, environmental and economic reasons to minimize your house size. Not everyone wants to live in 20m², and some days I’m not sure if even I’d recommend it, but tiny houses have valuable lessons for most of us.