tiny homes could be key in helping to meet the nuanced housing needs of western australia
Render of Hazel by Summit Tiny Homes.
  • A chronic lack of housing diversity is one thorn in the side of WA's housing market.
  • Other small housing products have the potential to plug the gap where its needed most.
  • Small homes of around 50 sqm are growing in popularity.

There are many reasons why Western Australia needs a greater diversity of housing across the continuum.

Affordability, shrinking family sizes, aging population, environmental constraints and supply issues all factor into the equation when it comes to the growing need to deliver a range of housing choices to suit different household’s needs.

According to Professor Steven Rowley Director, Australian Housing and Urban Research InstituteCurtin Research Centre, there is a chronic lack of housing diversity in most Perth suburbs with choices largely limited to detached dwellings the further from the CBD you travel.

“What is lacking is that middle ground between high rise apartments and large detached dwellings, commonly termed medium density,” Professor Rowley said.

“High quality apartments have been shown to be an effective option for downsizers but are generally restricted to higher value suburbs.

“Apartment development is often not financially viable in lower value suburbs, so lower density alternatives are required through medium density options such as townhouses and sometimes low-rise apartments.”

Professor Steven Rowley, AHURI – Curtin Research Centre

“Making the most of development opportunities in our high value suburbs and delivering high quality living options is essential and this can free up larger, detached dwellings in these areas.

“Within middle ring suburbs, amalgamating sites and delivering medium density precincts offering a range of living options and amenities that can transform Perth and offer effective downsizing solutions is needed,” Professor Rowley said.

Think small

While increasing medium density housing options in Perth is a crucial ingredient in our housing future, another housing trend is emerging in the WA market as a solution to improve affordability and offer smaller living options to the market.

Tiny homes are a fairly niche product, however, they are growing in reputation as a viable option to address issues such as aging in place, regional housing shortages, student accommodation, homelessness, and the need for crisis and short stay accommodation.

A tiny home is generally considered as a small dwelling of around 50 square metres or less that is fixed (built on a lot) or on a trailer (similar to a caravan).

Professor Rowley advises that tiny homes, and more permanent ancillary products such as granny flats, offer a potential supply of options for downsizing in areas dominated by large lots.  He says that tiny homes have the advantage of being affordable and flexible in terms of location.

“I would like to see tiny homes becoming an option on underutilised government land – land that may not be needed for ten to twenty years,” Professor Rowley said.

“As long as supporting infrastructure is in place this could offer many people a solution to their housing needs.

“Regional areas in particular could benefit from such temporary housing solutions.”

Professor Steven Rowley, AHURI – Curtin Research Centre

Summit Homes Group recently launched their new Tiny Homes collection, gathering a significant level of interest from the local industry.

The stand-alone, modular, steel framed homes are built at Summit’s facility in Myaree which can operate 24 hours, seven days a week in all weather conditions, reducing timeframes and potential delays.

Isabella Carr, Operations Manager at Summit Modular says that while tiny homes are just starting in WA, it is a growing industry.

“We have received significant interest from those wishing to downsize, looking for an alternative to apartment living, to charity organisations looking for temporary housing for the most vulnerable,” Ms Carr said.

“Our tiny home design is compliant with building standards and with design features such as built-in-storage to the kitchen, bathroom and laundry, our Tiny Homes can be used for someone’s primary residence.

“We have received significant interest from those who wish to have one of our Tiny Homes as their primary residence, we have also had a number of first home owners enquire.

“We are also currently seeing an increase in enquiry for sustainable building. Tiny homes have a reduced footprint and due to building methods there is less wastage in comparison to traditional construction practices on site.”

Ms Carr says that the Tiny Homes are also a viable option to address rural and regional housing needs, given they are produced at the yard and transported with all the wiring, plumbing and furnishings, making the homes a cost-effective option for creating housing in rural areas.

A place to call home

There are increasing rates of homelessness in Western Australia and Professor Paul Flatau Director of the UWA Centre for Social Impact says that it is an issue that requires a multifaceted response.

Professor Flatau notes that addressing homelessness is more than just providing housing, it is about the wrap around services that many people impacted by homelessness need, however, tiny homes are one supply response that could help get more people into housing.

“Housing is critical,” Professor Flatau said. “But you do need nuanced housing, so tiny homes would not be the kind of housing we need for families, but we have seen in recent times for example the increasing need from single adults, especially women, where tiny homes have been a solution.”

tiny homes can help with the western australian housing crisis
Render of Terra by Summit Tiny Homes.

Professor Flatau says that for tiny homes to effectively meet a particular cohort’s needs, there would need to be good planning around the tiny home development.

He cites the My Home project in North Fremantle led by local architect Michelle Blakeley as a good example of this.  A project consisting of 18 small, one-bedroom homes has been developed a short walk from North Fremantle train station in partnership with community housing provider St Patricks.

Heading south to Bunbury, Accordwest has created the Southwest’s first Tiny House Village.  The three purpose-built homes include wrap around support services to assist tenants and the organisation has plans to grow the successful initiative.

While meeting Western Australia’s growing and evolving housing needs will require a diversity of options, it seems that tiny homes have a big future in helping to address our housing challenges.

~~

This story was originally published in The Urbanist magazine, an official publication of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (WA). It has been edited for republication by The Property Tribune. 

The Property Tribune thanks the UDIA WA for the opportunity to republish the work, and share thought leadership in relation to urban development and community creation with our readers.

Read the original copy of The Urbanist by heading to UDIA WA’s website under the News tab.



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