Affordable housing: Are tiny houses the answer?
Are tiny houses the answer to Hobart's housing crisis? In short both yes and no.
Tiny houses provide a place where tenants or owners with limited financial means can feel they have a safe place and a place of their own. They can be built off site, towed to wherever they need to go and easily removed or moved on. However, as they are required to be mobile, they cannot have any permanent services, which includes sewerage.
A recent proposal to build tiny house villages on vacant carparks or vacant land to be used for future development while they are designed and approved is not the solution. Everyone deserves to feel safe and have a space of their own but this proposal provides no certainty to prospective tenants. It doesn't even provide appropriate amenity to the residents. Would you want to live crammed into a carpark?
The main proponents of such a scheme are existing short stay operators, property developers and real estate moguls. The profits to be made for the owners of the tiny houses exceed any other property returns in the city. Compare rents of $200 per week proposed for an investment of $100,000-$150,000, when $1 million apartments are available for $750/week. This solution is almost double the return for the owner, with almost no ongoing costs and less outlay. So who does this really serve?
Furthermore, the cost to council or the developer to provide the services required for basic housing, such as organised power, water supply and sewerage, as well as, the potential requirement for a full amenities block, is prohibitive and wasteful. It really is a poorly thought out solution imported from the trailer parks of America.
So how can small scale accomodation and tiny houses be better used to help solve the housing crisis?
Hobart City Council can play a role in this space by encouraging current home owners to install a tiny house or prefabricated studio in their backyard through:
Cutting red tape to fast track approvals processes
Waiving development application costs for single bedroom free-standing "developments"
Assigning a council employee to a portfolio that includes providing advice to prospective owners, assessing and referring applications, and providing recommendations to council.
Commissioning a report into a bulk-buy scheme with a Tasmanian constructor of these types of accomodation. Potentially, significantly reducing outlay costs for prospective owners.
Dispersing these tiny houses or single bedroom studios/granny flats amongst the Hobart municipality will help to establish a better sense of community for the tenants, who will feel like a permanent resident in their community enabling them to build relationships with people in the area. While the provision of proper rental contracts will provide protection and certainty for the future tenant.
If I am elected, I will seek advice from experts and look at the evidence from elsewhere for solutions to the housing crisis and how Hobart City Council can reduce to the cost of living for those who are struggling.