Coffs Coast Business, Local

Tiny home popularity explodes during Coronavirus pandemic

Tiny homes are often sought as an alternative option for affordable housing but since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the industry has been inundated with inquiries from a new breed of tiny-home enthusiasts.

By Melissa Martin

Key points:

  • Tiny-home builders are reporting new interest since COVID-19 hit
  • Sales have doubled for one builder as people look to leave the city, create income, or create a home office space
  • The Australian Tiny Homes Association hopes new guidelines for councils will make approval of tiny homes easier
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked renewed interest in tiny homes. (Supplied: Designer Eco Tiny Homes)

Some tiny-home builders have reported a doubling in demand for their services in the past month.

President of the Australian Tiny House Association (ATHA) Kim Connolly said members were seeing some specific trends in who was looking to buy.

“We’re finding now that tiny homes are important to middle-income earners in Australia — before, it was people who were looking for affordable housing,” she said.

“Now, it’s people who already have a house and a backyard but, because of COVID-19, they’ve lost part of their income stream: so now, tiny houses are starting to be seen as a way to add an income.”Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap.

Ms Connolly said there has also been strong interest from city-dwellers looking to live a more isolated life post-pandemic.

“I’ve spoken to a number of people in Sydney and they’ve had land up on the coast and they now want to do something with it and are asking what the regulations are.”

A woman, who is smiling, stands on the front wooden porch of a small demountable-like home on wheels.
Kim Connolly said the coronavirus has sparked new interest in tiny homes.(ABC News: Melissa Martin)

Regulations a sticking point

While tiny homes hold great appeal, they remain a somewhat difficult home to classify for local governments.

Most states treat tiny homes as caravans, with their regulation and approval differing among local councils.

“They don’t know how to deal with them; some are being more lenient and some are being more strict,” Ms Connolly said.

ATHA this week released a Tiny House Local Planning Policy Template which it hopes can be used by councils and would-be tiny home buyers to support the legal approval of the dwellings.

Ms Connolly said the policy can lessen the confusion and create intentional, actionable steps for councils.

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Demand outstripping supply

Kylie Emans, from Designer ECO Tiny Homes in Ulladulla, is hopeful the policy will make it easier for their customers to get the legal reassurance they want to install a tiny home but the current status quo has not deterred her clients.

Ms Emans said the business sold 11 homes in April — double its usual amount.

“We are booked up until October on our building schedule, so we’ve only got a couple of spots to fill for the end of the year,” she said.

Ms Emans said while there had been some interest from bushfire victims prior to COVID-19, when the pandemic hit, inquiries skyrocketed.

“We’re just getting inundated; the phone rings hot and we get messages on Facebook and Instagram every day; five or six,” she said.

“A lot have been people working from home and needing a different space to work from, separate from the family and all the distractions.

“Or [there were others] wanting to live on their own properties outside of the city.”

The interior or a tiny home
Tiny homes are treated by most local governments as caravans.(Supplied: Designer Eco Tiny Homes)

Popularity will ‘explode’

Ms Connolly believes the demand for tiny homes will only increase as Australians change their lifestyles post-pandemic.

“Now we can see that materialism isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, our attitudes are starting to change about what’s more important in life,” she said.

“Maybe living in a small house with a small footprint and having less financial stress means that you’re going to live better.”

Ms Eames said if councils adopted the recommendations of ATHA, and tiny homes became easier for people to install, demand would surge further.

“It would absolutely explode; we barely can build them fast enough now, they’re so popular,” she said.

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First published at The ABC Coffs Coast – Sunday 17 May 2020. See; https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-16/coronavirus-sees-new-demand-for-tiny-homes/12248392

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