During the Covid lockdown period there was a surge in the popularity of searches about tiny homes across the English-speaking internet. A programme about tiny homes on Netflix was also popular during that time.
Originating in the United States, these homes usually measure between 9.3 and 27.9 square metres. To put this into perspective, a typical two-bedroom home is between 74 and 140 square metres. In addition, most tiny homes are placed on trailers to provide freedom of movement to the occupants.
But don’t we already have caravans? Well, does a static caravan turn into a house since it doesn’t have wheels? Of course not, so why would if be that when we add wheels to a house, it becomes a caravan?
Tiny homes are designed to be permanent residences, whereas caravans are often – though not always – used for temporary or holiday accommodation. As a result, tiny homes are typically constructed with better insulation, sturdier materials, and a more permanent structure than caravans. They are designed for long-term living, rather than as a plastic shell, and are often equipped with plumbing and electrical systems similar to those in traditional homes.
Not costing the earth
A benefit of owning a tiny home is that it doesn’t cost the Earth, both metaphorically and literally. These homes have lower emissions and cost less to build. They create fewer greenhouse gases annually and are 87% cheaper to buy than an average US home.
However, tiny houses are actually more expensive than conventional houses per square foot. And while they may have a smaller environmental footprint, there can be increased consumerism and carbon footprints in other ways. For example, residents may eat out more often due to smaller kitchen space, drive further because they live in more remote areas, and make more frequent trips to the shops due to limited storage space.
Solar power, rainwater, and propane tanks can take most tiny homes off the grid, adding a layer of freedom and cutting down on running costs. But of course, such things can add to the initial cost of a tiny home, unless sustainability grants can be obtained.
Time is money, and money is time; with more time, the ability to do more things you love becomes available. Reduced time spent on maintenance and cleaning allows people to be more active in their communities, fight for something they believe in, and find more unique answers to their questions.
Legislation and regulations
It’s important to note that you may face some issues when trying to move and place a tiny home. Despite what some people believe, you still need planning permission when placing a tiny home on a patch of land. You’re only really exempt from this if you put it in a garden.
Navigating laws and regulations related to tiny housing can be a significant challenge, but there are ways through. As tiny homes are considered caravans in the eyes of the law, due to the ability to transport them, they can be placed on a caravan site. It’s best to look for sites with long-term seasonal pitches if going this route.
You can place a tiny home on land for which you have obtained planning permission in a residential area. Locating it on farmland or equestrian land is also an option. As a general rule, the less likely you are to need planning permission, the more likely your tiny home will be rural and even isolated.
Something else to think about, if you might be towing a tiny house on a trailer, is your driving licence. Ideally, you’ll want to upgrade to a C1E licence. This allows your home to be moved from place to place more easily. It increases the allowed weight limit up to 12,000kg compared to 3500kg on a regular license. And it increases the allowable height and length of items you can tow.
Can we have tiny homes in Wales?
Most of us don’t need all of the space in our homes. The rooms we spend the most time in other than the bedroom (in which we are mostly sleeping) are the kitchen and living room.
That’s not to say that a tiny home would be perfect for everyone. Clearly, they’re not ideal for large families. But in most cases, two people, even with a child or two, don’t need a massive 3-5 bedroom home. Homes are seen as a type of investment and a measurement of success, but let’s not forget that ultimately they’re for shelter.
Here in Wales, we’re lucky to be surrounded by natural beauty in much of the country. Tiny homes in Wales could present a unique housing opportunity, and help to tackle the problem of homelessness. They can provide people with better accessibility to their first self-owned homes. And also, in my view, provide a creative type of development I feel Wales needs and could excel at.
Tiny homes in Wales could enable innovation, while making us more conscious of what we really need. If we continue the way we’re going, overall human demand for land will use up resources at a greater rate than renewal. There is insufficient but increasing awareness of how we impact our planetary home.
Tiny houses can have a positive knock-on effect on every aspect of our world and our communities at local levels. If utilised more, they are far more than a lifestyle trend. But if you’re still not sure whether tiny house living is for you, you could give it a temporary trial by living in one while on holidays.
Strategic building of tiny homes in Wales could help develop a better future for the world. And, on an individual level, provide a cheaper, easier, and healthier way of life. Maybe make a tiny house in Wales your home?