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May 11, 2017, 08:30 AM

A paradox of prosperity

By Michael Morel

House in Melbourne, Australia

London West, UK - My computer defines a crisis as "a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger."
Every city I have lived in-New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, and now London-seems forever in the housing sort.

It begs the question-how can a crisis be a crisis when it is the usual state of things? The sad truth is, for much of the world the housing crisis is the norm.

A paradox of prosperity, the more economically successful an area, the less affordable its housing. You might think a country's success would see increased wages matching rising rents. Quite the contrary. The problem appears built into success itself.

This conundrum is perhaps at its worst in Australia. An economic miracle, it holds the extraordinary distinction of being the only rich country in the world that did not go into a recession during the Great Recession. But today its cities have some of the highest rents in the world and a growing cross section of young people are losing the traditional route to home ownership.

Each country responds to the problem by either addressing the economic factors behind declining wages, or somehow reducing housing costs. Australia's Big World Homes is taking the latter approach.

Big World Homes believes its tiny, off-grid homes can make a difference. Their modular, unplugged houses can be built by two people with minimal tools over the course of a couple days, saving a fortune in labour costs. Made from low environmental impact materials, a Big World Home costs from 60 to 80% less than a similar sized conventional home. At 65,000 Australian dollars (37,000), they open up the housing market to a growing demographic that would otherwise be stuck renting or living at home.

Crucially, these innovative homes also come packed with a new worldview. Counter-intuitively, Big World Homes believes living in small spaces leads to more enriched lives. As they work to appropriate underutilized land for their Big World Communities, they envision vibrant new communities of tiny homes far more socially connected than standard modern neighborhoods with minimal interaction.

By compelling people to be more intimately engaged with the world around them, Big World Homes are advocating a lifestyle that is in stark contrast with powerful forces driving society towards sedentary living. Able to accomplish more at home with our digitally connected devices than ever before, many see home as a sanctuary from the outside world.

Today's worldwide housing crisis is driven by unique 21st century circumstances. It is only logical to expect that new ways of living, and seeing the world, will be needed to alleviate the problem.

Big World Homes
Why a tiny house means a massive life

Story Type:  News

ID: 100225

        
 
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