London West, UK - As a recent transplant from San Francisco, I am no stranger to the dual scourge of insanely high rents and rampant homelessness. Just like back home, discussion of the UK's unforgiving property market has become so common as to become boring. Whether it's restrictions on building, the consequences of austerity measures, or invisible foreign buyers inflating the market, the causes are endlessly debated.
So let's talk about a solution instead.
The tiny house movement, as it is known, is a special answer because it can arise independently from individuals or be enacted through government policy. Council housing, the government's typical answer to housing shortages, seems worlds away from miniature homes funded with taxpayer money. But in the US, where the movement has a longer history, cities have already experimented with the concept. A recent project in Dallas, Texas housed 50 chronic homeless but had a high budget and suffered numerous delays. Despite the rocky start, that such a program exists is reason for optimism, particularly in a state not known for social welfare programs. Similar programs are playing out elsewhere in Texas and beyond.
Tiny houses are not just a solution for those living on the street. Benefits appeal to a growing spectrum of society; for young people as first homes and those saving to buy a larger home to pensioners stuck on a fixed income. Financial savings start with reduced construction costs and continue with undersized utility bills, miniature maintenance expenses, and petite property taxes. In 2015 SalvoNews reported on Texas resident Toni Cyan-Brock who built her tiny home using architectural salvage from dumpsters at a total cost of just $3,800 (£3,025). Environmental benefits begin with drastically fewer building materials and carry on via reduced energy consumption. Ultimately, the carbon footprint can be exponentially smaller than a conventional home, especially when using reclaimed materials.
Then there are the mental benefits. Far from feeling deprived from a lack of possessions, tiny home advocates often report greater contentment from a less cluttered and materialistic lifestyle. As someone who currently lives in a very small (though not quite tiny) basement flat, I can testify to the sense of liberation that comes after making tough decisions about what stays and what goes.
From rural areas to dense cities, the UK's reputation for onerous building restrictions mean big challenges ahead for the British tiny house movement. But as homelessness increases at an alarming rate, every solution must be explored, no matter how small.
Links are to a few companies making complete tiny homes with reclaimed materials in the UK and Retrouvius, a London based architectural salvage and design company who created a reclaimed garden cabin with an extra bedroom and bathroom for George Lamb. The Tiny House movement may have sprung up in America but the question remains is it an answer to the UK's housing crisis?
Please contact Salvo with your own experiences of creating tiny homes in the UK.
Tiny House Scotland
Tiny Home Company
Bert & May Group
Reclaimed homes in Dallas, Texas
Rise in UK homelessness
Story Type: Opinion
Date Modified: February 19, 2017, 06:51 AM