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Thinking big to go small: How tiny houses can be a good first move

The ‘Tiny House Movement’ offers something to people frozen out of the property market by high deposits and rising prices.

WITH HOUSE PRICES on the rise and the Central Bank asking that people pay 20% of a house’s price down as a deposit – getting onto the property ladder is a bigger challenge than ever before.

This has made some people get creative with the sorts of places they are living in. Since starting in the United States over a decade ago, the ‘tiny-house movement’ has given people the option to live in small, mobile houses that are as small as 80 sq ft.

Tiny_House_UK-IR-4 Source: Mark Burton via Tiny House UK

Mark Burton is the owner of ‘Tiny House UK’, a company that builds and supplies the micro-living units.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Burton explained how this alternative to the traditional bricks and morter route could provide solutions to some of the problems with the housing crisis.

“There is a huge housing problem. The younger generation have no hope of getting on the housing ladder. Students who travel to study have to pay rent – that could anything up to a £1,000 (€1,270) a month,” said Burton.

You’re not getting any of that back. Why can’t we have tiny house villages? Or even campuses on universities where they can own their own tiny house? Then that is something solid that they can then sell to the next student coming.

Tiny_House_UK-IR-2 Source: Mark Burton via Tiny House UK

In Ireland, one notable case has been that of Killkenny innovator Noel T. Higgins, who moved from a four-bedroom bungalow into a transportable wooden abode, which he has named ‘Teach Nollaig’. In doing so, Higgins substantially downsized his lifestyle. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Higgins said, “it was incredibly liberating in a way – in terms of maintenance and cleaning and heating, that would of been lot of work, and you are eliminating a lot of that.”

One thing that he would like to see changed would be more people becoming involved in the movement in Ireland. 

It just makes loads of sense. One of the reasons it originally started was as a response to mortgage repossessions in the States. There are a lot of people here in negative equity – the idea of mortgage free housing makes loads of sense.

For Burton, it is important that people give consideration to how they build their structures. Often, creating their own can simplify the process – and make mistakes that could prove dangerous.

What we don’t want people to do is to think – ‘oh great, we can just build one ourselves’ – and then end up taking it on the road and having an accident – which then gives bad press to the tiny house thing generally. People should have them built properly – even if it is just the shell – and then they can do all the finishing touches themselves.

“My first one collapsed under the weight – that was a learning curve for me. I had to go back to square one and rethink how to do it,” said Burton.

Tiny houses are around three tonnes, about three times that of a standard caravan, and building in the UK and Ireland differs from the way the structures are put together in the US.

Here caravan chassis are designed to take less weight and consideration has to be made for northern European weather conditions.  

Tiny_House_UK-IR-3 Source: Mark Burton via Tiny House UK

The tiny house movement came to prominence during the early 2000s – thanks in large part to the innovation of American designer Jay Schafer. It is based on a approach that embraces simplifying not just design – but lifestyle as well.

In Burton’s experience, for people who are not parking their tiny houses on their own privately owned land,  there are a few options that are “worth a try”.

If you look at farmers – they’ve had a bit of a rough deal over the last number of years… what would be quite a small amount of land to them could work out quite well for someone in a tiny house. And the farmer could do with a bit of ground rent.

“Then there is the option of people coming together and buying a piece of land – in the case that you might be denied planning permission on the grounds of amenities – these things can be totally off grid,” said Burton.

Tiny_House_UK-IR-1 Source: Mark Burton via Tiny House UK

For someone thinking of buying a tiny house, they could expect to be set back around €11,500 (£9,000) for a basic model, and up to around €31,000 (£25,000) for a fully off-grid model that would function without being connected to an electrical supply.

Read: Pressure is on to get building, but those in construction need to learn new skills

Also: Little relief for renters as Rent Supplement and rent cap omitted from Budget

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