There is a serious shortage of affordable homes in the UK. The housing charity Shelter has estimated that 1.2 million young families cannot afford to buy a property and “face a lifetime in expensive and insecure private renting”. But this is a big issue for millennials in general, not just young families. A report from the Resolution Foundation predicts that one in three millennials in the UK will never own a home.
Many young people have made certain sacrifices as a way to get on the property ladder, such as moving back in with their parents. However, there is another solution to the UK’s housing crisis, one that may seem like a sacrifice to some but which offers a wide range of practical benefits. And that’s the option of buying and living in a tiny home. These homes, which are fully functional, are a fraction of the size and cost of a regular home. The most pressing problem with a tiny home, though, is finding somewhere you’re legally allowed to place it.
If the government works to change these regulatory barriers, then this could play an important role in solving the UK’s housing crisis.
The Affordability of Tiny Homes
Housing is so expensive in the UK that the average first-time buyer is 30-years-old and has a salary of £41,000 a year. In addition, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) highlights that for 90% of 25- to 34-year-olds, the average price of a house is more than four times their annual salary after tax. The situation is especially dire in London, where the average price for a house is over £650,000.
Tiny homes, on the other hand, are astronomically cheaper than any regular house in the UK. Of course, the price will vary depending on if you decide to build the tiny home yourself or if you purchase a pre-built home (cost will also vary between manufacturers and suppliers). As a case in point, you can buy a fully furnished and functional micro home from Tiny House for £20,500 (as a static home) or £25,000 (as a mobile home). Some people are also able to build their own tiny home (with a lot of hard work, mind you) for £10,000.
Tiny homes range in size from 100 to 400 square feet, contrasting to standard homes in the UK, which are over double the size. The size of tiny homes means that you automatically save on utility bills and other costs, such as repairs and replacements (since you will have fewer possessions). It’s also possible to live off-grid in a tiny home. This means you could live without relying on public utilities and instead power your home using renewable sources of energy like solar and wind, while also utilising composting for your toilet and a rainwater system for your water needs. This would also allow you to drastically reduce your bills. Furthermore, as it is financially feasible to buy your tiny home outright, you won’t have to worry about a deposit or mortgage payments. Your home becomes immediately yours.
Another major benefit of tiny homes is that, compared to a regular home, they require less land, fewer resources to build, and produce far less energy. Shortage of land is partly driving the UK’s housing crisis. Housing in the UK is also responsible for one-fifth of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, so tiny homes could offer a way for millennials to live in a way that is sustainable, as well as frugal.
Why the Government Needs to Change Planning Permission Laws
While it’s not necessarily difficult to own a tiny home, it can be challenging to find somewhere to put it. If you don’t have a garden, belonging to a friend or family member, say, to place your tiny home, then you have to contend with tricky planning permission laws. A petition calling on the government to address these regulations states:
“Tiny homes, prefab eco homes and houses formed from converted structures such as buses and shipping containers are just a few of the ways UK families and individuals can have a place of their own without being weighed down by rent or a hefty mortgage. Issues arise, however, when one considers where to place such affordable structures. Residential land is just as unobtainable as regular housing, and the more affordable land comes with a plethora of obstacles (namely, planning permission & associated laws) should one wish to live on it.
It is precisely this inaccessibility to land that is stopping UK citizens from owning or building their own affordable houses, many of which are self-sustainable and much better for the environment as well. We are calling for parliament to recognise the need for a radical change in the housing system for a generation that has little hope of ever owning their own home otherwise.”
Tiny homes are not for everyone. A lot of people would simply find them claustrophobic or impractical to live in, especially if they want a home big enough to raise a family in. Nonetheless, the popularity of tiny homes is on the rise, especially for millennials. The government should, therefore, consider reviewing planning permission laws in order to help young people get on the housing ladder.