Tiny House 1 – FAQ

A few of the usual questions about the ‘Tiny House 1’ build

What is it?

‘Tiny House 1’ is the first build initiated by John Baxter, the ‘founder’ of Own Home.  He’s building it to live in himself.

He is getting council approval for it to be installed in the backyard of a suburban Adelaide rental property.  He will rent the property, but own the tiny house.

The main reason he decided to do this was to have a tangible demonstration project and to test out ideas and solve problems before working with other people, or sharing from the lessons for others that want to do it themselves.

The first house has been a good excuse for a build workshop, working bees and things like that.

What sort of a house is it?

It is a transportable ‘tiny house’ – but it’s not on wheels.

It is 2.5 by 6m long, and around 3.2m high.

This is similar dimensions to what others are building on trailers (similar to a caravan).  Because we are getting development approval and plan to only move every couple of years (at most!), it makes more sense to us to put it on the back of a truck than pay the $6,000+ for a custom trailer!  (You would be surprised how cheap this is – less than $400 to truck it within the metro area.)

We are building with as much salvage as possible, ideally from demolished old buildings, but also offcuts and unused materials from new construction, pop-ups and the like.

It will be a ‘shed style’ skillion roof slanted to one side, with beautiful, window-filled north facing main wall, tin roof and partial cladding, with a shou sugi ban burned timber front ‘feature wall’.

Where will it be?

If all things go according to plan it will be located in the backyard of a rental property in suburban Adelaide – with all the permits and approvals to make it a legitimate long-term living option.

It is presently being built off site.

Unique features

Possibly the first development-approved (& building code compliant) ‘tiny house’ in the country.  We haven’t yet confirmed anything that fits the ‘tiny house’ mold that have gone this route, though a handful of cool projects are in the pipeline (like Tiny Homes Foundation in NSW).

As such, this may well be the smallest, most affordable and most environmentally sustainable, council-approved ‘house’ in the country (although technically, it is not a ‘house’ under SA planning laws, but ‘dependent accomodation’).

We are also pioneering a number of housing features such as unique models for

  • community-supported DIY building
  • renting the land but owning your own home

So what do you consider a ‘tiny house’ anyway?

We don’t follow a fixed definition (see some of John’s thinking here) but the most important factors are:

  • comfortably liveable— so people want to live there, not just because they have no other option
  • transportable— so that you can own your own home (and build it if so inclined), without the barrier of land ownership

Is this a business or non-profit what?

The ‘tiny house 1’ build is a pretty straightforward owner-built housing project.

As far as how this fits into ‘Own Home’ and later building, it’s too early to say.  It will probably play out somewhere in between.

John loves the idea of making a living helping people create modest housing that they can afford, that makes them happy, and that respects the planet.

So far the only people making money out of anything are the insurance companies, and maybe parts suppliers: John is building his own house, with his own money, and mostly his own time (but with plenty of volunteer contributions!).

Some professionals will be paid for support such as running workshops, plumbing and electricals (though we are always happy to find volunteers!)

A tiny house niche?

Considering the options for tiny houses

In most areas of Australia, there is nothing stopping you buying a quarter acre block and putting a tiny house on it. Aside from the fact that it is probably a waste of time and money.

Think about what it would involve. If you’re lucky you find a crappy block in an outer suburb that you can afford (but don’t really want to live in); the smallest you could find, which is still big enough for a tiny house, a triple garage, and a garden to feed a family of four (if only the soil wasn’t contaminated). You take out a mortgage for most of the $200,000 it costs to own it, and are relieved that the 12 month process to find The Right Block is finally over. You connect your utilities, get plans drawn up, do your engineering, go through the approvals process -all of which take just us much effort for your 15 square metre house as they would for a 1500 square metre house- and 4 months and $20,000 later you’re ready to start building. Your budget to build your tiny house itself is around $22,000… one tenth of what you’ve already spent. It takes you another 3 months to confirm that no, nobody will loan you this money, and to save enough money to get started on your build. You’ve already spent around ten times what you hope it will cost for you to undertake construction, and probably a little bit longer than it would have taken to get a builder to complete the architect designed home of your dreams. (Let’s ignore all the existing houses you’ve since in that time that somebody else has already built for you.) Not including the two years you spent dreaming and designing and watching every tiny house walk-through and progress update that you could find on YouTube.

You look back at the last few years of your life and you can’t help but wonder- given that it would add less than a hundred dollars a fortnight to your mortgage repayments, why was it again that you didn’t decide to just buy a regular house like everybody else? Or at least built something four times bigger, which would have added around 3% to the budget, and actually had value in the traditional housing market?

Tiny houses are not a smaller, cuter, more affordable version of a regular house. A single tiny house as an ‘affordable’ permanent dwelling on a typical block makes no sense.

So are tiny houses a waste of time?

I wouldn’t go that far.

I do think the tiny house movement is fueled by exaggerated promises and unrealistic expectations. At least, the movement as far as most people know it, which is in the media and online – not the same thing as those who are actually living tiny.

But that doesn’t mean that tiny houses don’t have a genuine place in our housing system.

Tiny houses have a few unique properties that mean there unique ways for them to become practical, viable options.

Advantages of going tiny

The key feature of a tiny house is that it redefines the relationship between house and land. You can build a tiny house relatively cheaply, without needing to own land to put it on. The relationship between house and land becomes flexible with a tiny house, because it can be moved as needs or land change, and it is not wedded to land ownership.

Of course… you need land to be able to live in it. But you don’t need the $200,000++ to own the block of your dreams.

So how do you take advantage of the unique properties of your tiny house?

Find land that you can access, that is commensurate with your investment in your house. If you can do that, then a tiny house starts making sense.

There are other advantages of tinies, from a housing perspective….

  • accessibility to owner builders – people believe they can build a tiny house, it seems achievable (how much different it actually is from building something bigger is another question, but people definitely feel differently about their capacity when they look at a tiny)
  • being able to design painstakingly to meet your own personal needs, with less need to design flexibility for others’ needs (or for that matter, for your own needs down the track)
Some options to access land

There are three main ways that I can see, to access land that might make sense with a tiny house

  • find land which is cheap in the usual sorts of ways – which generally means being out bush, or perhaps just living places that nobody else really wants. Not necessarily an option for everyone, but a lot of tiny house folk are ‘unconventional’ like that, and unconventional places suit them just fine.
  • share land, and do away with the Australian dream of the nuclear family in their nuclear castle. Tiny house ‘villages’, like apartment buildings, are a way to cut down lot sizes to something affordable, and to create efficiencies in infrastructure like shared open space. (They can also be a good way to create good local amenity in otherwise undesireable places.)
  • access under-utilised pockets of land, which for one reason or another aren’t readily available to ‘the market’, and are hence accessible at unusually low prices. This under-utilised land comes in many different forms, and as you get used to looking out for it, you notice our cities are crammed full of it. You might notice odd size or shape block of land, in between developments in the city, or maybe suburban land that used to be an easement or path. There are heaps of little pockets of land out the back of parks, railways and other infrastructure, public or semi-public places… which is just too small or otherwise not valuable enough for anyone to really bother using it – not that that makes it easy, or even possible, to get permission to do so yourself! There are also vast swathes of land which are ‘in between’ uses – perhaps former industrial land which will be redeveloped into housing in the foreseeable future, or suburban backyards which nobody every goes into, and which will at some point make way for a subdivision or apartment. Development takes time, especially large developments, and often land can sit unused or at least under-used for years or even decades, for no reason other than because nothing is the easiest thing for the property owner to do in the meantime.
The tiny house niche: economics of under/utilisation

Generally, if land is suitable for putting a typical house on, it is not going to make sense to put a tiny house there – except as a temporary occupation.

Keep in mind, that while a tiny house is cheaper to construct than a ‘normal’ sized house, the construction costs don’t scale down linearly. That is, a 15 square metre tiny house might be a quarter the cost of a mansion (say 300 m2), or half the cost of something 8 times larger (small but not unusually small at 120 m2), and not even that much different in cost from something which is 3-4 times larger (60 m2 is smaller than anybody really builds these days). And whilst there are plenty of tiny house people who would be just as happy in 15 as in 60 square metres, going this small does involve compromises which are genuine issues (like having zero flexibility in the layout of your home, and negligible wiggle room to handle guests or unforeseen uses).

So the idea is that if land can’t be readily exploited by more normal means, then it is not available on ‘the market’, and you don’t have to pay market prices for it. The unique features of a tiny house make at least some of this land useable that wouldn’t have been useable before.

I think the biggest opportunity for tiny houses is to fill a niche as a temporary (pop up) occupation of land that is temporary underutilised because it is in flux. The changing and constant evolution of our land (cities in particular) means that no land is ever totally optimised, and there is always a churn of how land is used – whether an evolution in type (away from industrial areas in inner cities, to residential), in status (gentrification) or simply in form (gradual churn of building stock as it ages). There are of course always changes in the status of owners or occupiers of land… So, the more drastically our cities change and evolve, the greater the significance of underutilised land, and the greatest the opportunity for tiny housing. In an era where the whole of society is accellerating (land use included), I think tiny houses will have more and more opportunity to realise untapped resources.

Will the good times end?

Will the cheap availability of marginalised land disappear in a future when tiny houses are common enough that there is a deeper market for these spaces being occupied? Quite possibly. On the flipside… much of the current cost of this land is access and administration, and these costs will only go down as tiny houses become more mainstream. It will be easier to find appropriate land (and people willing to give you a go), and there will be more precedents that have pushed through hurdles of contracting and other options, as well as practical, technical issues (like cost effective foundation options for semi-permanent structures). I don’t think there’s any way to predict which way this balance will play out except to wait and see.

Learning about Tiny House 1 on Radio Adelaide

Had the pleasure of talking to Sue Reece on Radio Adelaide about the tiny house.

The project has had a bunch of media interest, but there normally isn’t as much opportunity to share anything interesting.

Some words here on my favourite part of the house, where the project came from, and what on earth a tiny house is anyway. Have fun!

Big Ideas about Tiny Houses

‘Co-housing’ – sharing facilities, sharing lives

You have probably heard of co-housing. You might have heard of Durrett and the multi-house co-housing community. I love this sort of development, and in particular the critical role of the community of residents designing the build themselves to meet their needs, and maintaining governance of the community.

But I am coming to appreciate that if this is what the ‘co-housing’ term is going to mean then we are missing out on much much more, and much of what matters.

Not because there is anything wrong with this sort of community, except for the obvious fact that it isn’t for everyone – it is a very niche solution.

I am always meeting people who are searching for ways to live differently. As often as not, these people want to live ‘with others’. I really want to live ‘in community’, whatever that means. Other people want to ‘share’.

The variety of ways that we could potentially live differently is astounding – sharing facilities, sharing company, sharing lives. The mainstream system doesn’t deliver. The Durrett model and eco-villages work for some, but for only very few. There are many many other ways we could live ‘together’.

So I appreciate a new champion who is promoting a deathly simple definition of ‘co-housing’, which I think is both radical, and inclusive of a much bigger trend:
Co-housing accommodates two or more people living independently in a single house, or in a group of houses, specifically designed to share certain facilities and interests.

This is the definition at the heart of the South Australian Co-Housing Association. Fuzzy Trojan is launching the Association at the start of next month. I look forward to seeing who comes along. There is a lot of promise here.



Minister for Communities & Social Inclusion,
Social Housing, Status of Women, Multicultural Affairs,
Ageing, Youth, Volunteers.


TIME: 10.00am


The South Australian Co-housing Association launch will be held at a newly constructed co-housing project.

You are cordially invited to attend and to bring others who may be interested.

Please RSVP by August 25 th to sacohousingassociation at gmail.com stating numbers attending

Further information from Fuzzy Trojan 041 990 1133

A quick wave from the trenches

This certainly isn’t the first tiny house blog that has gone quiet when building starts.

Progress has come in waves, but things are coming along well now, and we’re getting into the final run of key bits that we need in place before we transport it from the build site to its next resting place.  We haven’t yet secured a home for it, and aren’t sure whether this will be a temporary or semi-permanent move…

I have learned an immense amount and really enjoying all the new tiny house people and owner builders that are appearing, lending a hand, and taking these experiences to help them plan their own building.  There is quite a network of helpful builders forming.

I haven’t been entirely slack in my postings – Michelle has set up a Facebook page for us, at fb.com/ownhometinyhousing.  I have kept this updated every week or so with photos and main happenings, though I haven’t been able to get into much detail.  Perhaps when things slow down I’ll go back over what we’ve done and start getting some of the good bits down…

Here are a few shots from the most recent update.

Take care
– John

2016-06-18 16.22.15
Shower base wedged in by internal wall
2016-06-17 12.02.18
View from the loo.  Miraculously dry
2016-05-16 15.20.23
From late June – a naked house
2016-06-17 12.01.43
Wrapped all over and ready for cladding. Clapboard furring going on the front. Thanks Beau!
2016-06-15 16.47.19
Not a bad job for one guy and a wobbly ladder…
2016-06-12 13.39.10
Ceiling’s come up lovely, exposed rafters and all
2016-06-15 13.01.07
Racing the rain… we got there


Wax and wane of tiny housing, part 1

I’ve been doing okay blogging here about some of our lessons, recording references and filling in our Hackpad wiki. But there’s more to learn from than the ‘lessons’… especially the sort of things that are easy to lose if you don’t write them down. Its very hard to remember what it was like to be ‘at the beginning’. So for posterity’s sake, I’m starting a recount of the waxing and waning and shifts in perspective.

Way back when (12 odd months ago, in March 2015) I knew what a ‘tiny house‘ was, but that was about it. I didn’t have all that much interest in them, if I’m honest. There weren’t many around, and they weren’t overly relevant to me. I’m the kind of person that dismisses stuff that isn’t relevant. I had recently started working in construction (as a side income to running my own business as a facilitator and engagement consultant), but I was there specifically so that I could keep my intellectual and creative attention focused on my business.

So when a half dozen or so different friends expressed their fascination with tiny houses over the course of a month, a little switch flicked over. I had dismissed all of this talk… none of them was actually going to build one, so I had mostly glazed over when they came up. But I realised that… well there’s no good reason that we couldn’t. On an individual level, building a tiny seemed novel, but overly difficult. Together, on the other hand… surely we could pool our resources and it would be a walk in the park?

This was the first little shift in the tiny house journey; and if my reading of tiny house forums is anything to go by, 98% of people willing the movement on never get this far.

This idea also presented itself as a perfect foil. When I proposed to my friends that we should get together and build ourselves houses, I was certain they would all admit that their tiny house musings were pure fantasy, and next time the topic came up I would have the required ammunition to shoot the conversation down and move on to something more pragmatic.

Well they showed me. Without fail, each one of them considered it for a moment and responded “hmmm… you know what Baxter, a tiny house builders co-op is pretty cool idea; I’d be part of that.” Which meant, I supposed, that I was in too.

So over a couple months of testing chats, strategising, lining up “first movers” and “potential builders”, business models and project pathways, I somehow found myself convinced that there’s actually something in this tiny house thing, and in particular in cooperative models for self-determination in housing. Not only something that’s doable, but something that is really worth doing, that is engaging, and that I’m in a position to get on with.

Of course the inevitable ‘project pathway’ was some variety of over-ambitious stagnation. Nobody was really ready, or as keen as I had interpreted. Everybody realistically couldn’t fit becoming a (tiny house) builder into their current planned pathways. And building their own tiny house was something that would be happening later, when they were “ready”.

None of this was surprising, but I was somewhat put back by the difficulty in finding a compelling path to move forward and build the momentum.

I was by this stage convinced at least, that there is something in (tiny) housing for me to be doing, so I plugged on. I booked in for a 6 day tiny-house-on-wheels building course in Victoria, knowing that that sort of experience would be useful in any case, even though I was in no position to start building myself.

Before the workshop even started though, I had realised that the workshop was actually a crutch for a disability that didn’t exist. If I had wanted to —and more importantly, made the decision to do it— I could have been building a tiny house already. By the time the workshop came around, I had a good mix of hands on experience (and had demonstrated that I had the aptitude for navigating building projects), and knew as much as most in Australia about tiny house planning, approvals and issues. I was under no false impression that I had the experience of an actual builder or carpenter (nor will I for some time), but that depth of experience isn’t needed to make a start. If anything, the workshop was my excuse to put off making a commitment until some point “in the future”; because I made the workshop out to be more critical a component than it really was.

Much as I talk down the importance of the workshop, it was a great experience, and these two guys are legends.  We built Emmet Blackwell's house, with the help of carpenter Nick Matyevich.  I loved how they ran the workshop so much that we're bringing Nick to SA to run the workshop on our own build.
Much as I talk down the importance of the workshop, it was a great experience, and these two guys are legends. We built Emmet Blackwell’s house, with the help of carpenter Nick Matyevich. I loved how they ran the workshop so much that we’re bringing Nick to SA to run the workshop on our own build.

So this was my second little shift; realising that the only thing I needed to start building tiny houses was a house that needed building, and the willingness to commit to doing it. This was September/October 2015.

I still had no idea what the ‘first project’ would be, but I had decided for better or for worse, that the best way to ‘get started’ in tiny house building, and start to grow the momentum needed to establish a building program of real merit, was to build a tiny house, of any description.

I’m not exactly sure where I was at in my thinking over the next couple of months, but I focused on researching possibilities for programs of affordable tiny housing, understanding the housing system and challenges of affordability, and potential ways to pilot some sort of a build program. This doesn’t exactly sound in hindsight like the “getting started” step that was supposed to happen next, but there was still one particular piece of the puzzle that was needed for that: a tiny house worth building.

Late in 2015, sitting out the back of Sophia MacRae’s place, the opportunity in that backyard was impossible to avoid. Sophia’s a planner and local councilor into sustainable design and housing options (among many things), and even though she was only renting there, she sees the opportunity in the lot and is churning away on ways to make something good come of the inevitable redevelopment. But in the meantime, the backyard presents itself as a perfect opportunity for the ‘pop-up suburban infill’ that I have come to see as the greatest potential for growth of tiny affordable housing.

She was predictably enthusiastic about putting the backyard to use for tiny-housing, and this became the most promising route to get things rolling.

We still didn’t know what house would be built there. Michelle and I aren’t in tiny housing because we have a compelling dream to live in one ourselves. Our apartment is fine, we like living in the city, and living in a beautiful little tiny house probably isn’t worth the effort to build it.

While in Sydney for Christmas I couldn’t help but face up to the obvious conclusion, though. The ‘first project’ we were trying to find would of course be our own tiny house. We could have spent a long time weighing up options and implications, and being critical of this idea, but by this point, 9 months on from the start of my tiny house journey (and maybe 4 months since I realised I was “ready” to start building), I had done enough thinking and it was time to commit to something that would push the tiny housing project forward. It didn’t take much time to come to see this was the next step we “had to take”… (which by now was of course a “we”, whether Michelle liked it or not).

Okay, I’ve written enough for this morning and am going to leave it there – I’ll be back shortly to bring the story up to speed with where we are now in the project and some of the to-and-fro that has come with actually building a tiny.

Loft headroom – what’s doable?

Michelle and I had a lovely weekend in the Happy Simply House down in Aldinga.  It’s not really set up, and is without running water, toilet facilities and other such comforts, but we basically glamped indoors and got a feel for designing a space like that.

In particular, we could test ideas about loft headroom dimensions.

I have tried to find decent articles considering headroom online, wasting a fair amount of time in the process.  There seems to be very little out there; and anything I could find dimensions for were US tiny houses with gable roofs (pitched to a steep point in the middle), unlike the gentle shed-type skillion roof slope of our place.

So here are our take-aways…

You don’t need much headroom at all to feel ‘spacious’ enough and to fit most of the things you’ll do. The ceiling was low (like 80cm to mattress in the high/head end, 50cm in the foot end), but it was never really an issue. You can get around on your knees (including climbing over a sleeping* body) fine with that much height.

Michelle does like to sit and read in bed, so it was too low for that, and you know, other things happen, but… hey, you know, creative constraints ; )

So we’re probably going to go a bit lower than we thought, at around 95cm from mattress, which is measured as 5cm higher than the top of our heads when sitting up in bed.

If you didn’t need to sit up and chill out in bed I reckon 75-80cm would probably be fine.

We’ve also been warned to consider the irregular things you need space for, in particular for making the bed.  But having made the bed a couple of times we found that with a futon style mattress it’s easy with little space at all – you can pull the edges up easily while you kneel on it.  No problem!

While it wasn’t as plush as we’re used to at home, we were happy enough with the futon mattress (or at least, with a couple of cheap futons stacked together), and it definitely makes a difference in making the bed, and in creating more headroom (mattresses are thick!).

So there will be no more jumping on the bed, but otherwise I think we just about have the bases covered.

Initially posted to Tiny Houses – Adelaide on Facebook

Lessons in planning approved tiny housing

It’s possible to get a ‘tiny house’ planning approved in SA, as long as you don’t call it a house. But it might still remain a fringe option.

We are seeking approval for our tiny as ‘dependent accommodation’ in the Norwood Payneham & St Peters’ (NPSP) council area, i.e. as a granny flat that is attached to a main dwelling.

There are a few of other options that could be whole articles of their own… the tiny house village might be possible, but sure as hell won’t be easy, especially not near the city. A tiny house on its own block is possible too, but probably isn’t viable in urban areas either. So I think the tiny house ‘granny flat’ holds most hope for bringing tiny houses in from the fringe.

Note that for the time being I am only talking about planning approval (zoning and the like), not building code compliance (structure, fire, how it all goes together).  The building code shouldn’t stop us, but it’s far too massive a beast to comment yet.

We also haven’t asked after the status of tiny houses on wheels, since ours won’t have any; though I can confirm there is no distinct treatment for manufactured / transportable housing in the SA planning system.

We still have a few hoops of uncertainty to jump through, but it looks like our project should go ahead smoothly (touch wood).

In a sense that’s a great sign for others who want to legally live in a tiny house. Especially given we aren’t trying to work out how to dodge around the system (like most tiny houses do), but instead we are working out how to get our future home approved as legitimately as possible.

But hold your applause… the progress so far is not without qualifications.

Fortunate Circumstance
We have a lot of good quality help, from planners, builders, architects and council staff – the sorts of help most people can’t depend on (not without thick wallets). Council’s planning staff have been fabulous, helping to clarify how the approvals process works, and what the critical factors are for us to address (and the remaining uncertainties). It would be very easy for staff to have sniffed a grey area and to have decided they were going to find every way they could say no, instead of how we could work out a solution that was going to work.

We’re also lucky that NPSP has fairly amenable planning regulations around dependent accommodation. My reading of the situation is that people around here just aren’t building granny flats – especially not to rent out.  Most (wealthy) land owners are building massive studios or sheds out the back (or just rebuilding their whole home to suit); the sorts of backyard building that neighbours never complain about… so Council’s never had much call to police them.

These advantage aren’t entirely unique, but they’re not exactly reassuring for other builders out there… if you luck out with your local planners, no matter how much you try to work constructively, it’s quite possible you’ll remain totally stuffed.  That’s the catch with grey areas in the rules!

There are also a few things to share back about the planning system that can be applied across the state, and give a sense of the viability of tiny houses going mainstream.

The Outbuilding Option
The first is that anywhere in SA, it is possible to build a 40 square metre ‘outbuilding’ without even seeking council approval. (Dev’t Regs Part 1, 5AA and Sched 1A, 3(1))  The main catches with this for tiny houses are that these don’t apply to buildings where human activity is their primary purpose, and even if you want to be shifty regards purpose, there are height limits that may not work (3m external wall height). Sheds, carports and storage areas are fine. A ‘tiny house’ which you live in is not.  A studio might fit (a place you hang out but where you don’t permanently sleep)?  But that could be pushing it.

(I have also heard about a 15 square metre rule, which may apply to studios or dependent accomodation, but I couldn’t find it in the regs.  ? Someone please enlighten me if you know more.)

So the ‘outbuilding’ route might work for some, but it’s still pretty fringe.

The Uncertain Dangers of Dependency
Secondly, getting somewhere you’re going to live approved as ‘dependent accommodation’, like we are, is always going to be a tenuous grey area. It may matter less what is in a council’s development plan than it does how assessors (or the courts) interpret the undefined concept of ‘dependent’.

I was initially very optimistic, based on readings of a number of council’s Development Plans (where all the local zoning and planning rules are kept), that it would be easy to get a granny-flat-tiny approved in quite a number of councils… and just as reassuringly, that it’s pretty easy to review a development plan to find the rules and work out which ones.

That got a bit more complicated when I started calling up council planning officers asking about tiny affordable housing options (mistake #1 – don’t call it a house!), who promptly told me that it’s not possible to rent out a granny flat – or some other seemingly arbitrary condition for ‘dependency’ which wasn’t referenced in their development plan.

It wasn’t until sitting down with Matt from NPSP that I appreciated why. Recent cases have established that definitions in councils’ development plans don’t actually carry that much weight. Rulings always favour what is in state regulations… or sometimes even a common dictionary definition!

So when a council’s development plan says dependent accommodation is detached accommodation which is “connected to the services of the primary dwelling”, you can probably just treat this as an advisory comment. Don’t think you can connect up to the sewer and electricity and think you’re sweet.

Whether fortunately or not, there isn’t an alternative definition of ‘dependent’ to refer to in the state regulations. What there is is a definition of “dwelling”: ‘ a building or part of a building used as a self-contained residence’ (Dev’t Regs 2008 Sched 1)

For all intents and purposes, it doesn’t matter much whether you fit council rules for ‘dependent accommodation’; if you are viewed as being ‘self contained’ then kiss your dependent accommodation / granny flat status goodbye.

Seeking approval for a dwelling is a whole different kettle of fish to building a granny flat. In the zone we are building in it would be prohibitively difficult, and in other areas you might be forced to subdivide the property… and either way, you trip the need to meet all of the planning requirements for an independent dwelling (and likely building code implications as well), with bigger setbacks, driveways, private open space, storage, laundry… you name it. I guess you could do it, but you don’t want to – you won’t be building tiny affordable housing any more, you’re subdividing and redeveloping. You could maybe do it on a cheap rural block of land, but I couldn’t see anyone doing it as an inner-suburban backyard option.

Everything hinges on the fuzzy interpretation of whether your proposal is ‘dependent’ or ‘self-contained’.

We have a constructive relationship with council, and some project specific things going our way (e.g. a prior relationship with the other tenants with whom we will be effectively sharehousing in an external bedroom; it looks like a dependent relationship). We’re optimistic of a positive assessment.

So as long as we get through the next few hurdles, I guess we’ll show that development approval is possible.

But does it really establish what we want?

We want to establish a precedent for a viable, repeatable (tiny & environmentally responsible) affordable housing option. I don’t think we’re there.

We are actually a unique and possibly unreplicable story, which is a ‘tiny house’ in form; while we try not to mention ‘house’ to any of the wrong people for fear it will push us further into the grey zone.

If anything, I’d say we’ve learned that state planning regulations define and deal with ‘dwellings’ in a way that will force tiny houses to remain a fringe option, whether we’re successful or not. Our positive progress comes with more than a tinge of sadness too.

Tiny House Build Workshop – April 2016

Apply to join the workshop by emailing john@jsbaxter.com.au

1. What do tiny houses mean to you and where are you at in your tiny house journey?
2. Where does this workshop fit in?
3. What talents and tools can you share at the workshop?
4. Can you attend the full 4 days?
5. Is there anything else we should know about you?

There is a limit of 12 places
Cost is $300
We hope to have made offers by 20 March We had 9 out of 12 places filled on the 20th – you may not have missed out just yet!
Any questions email john@jsbaxter.com.au or call 0405 447 829.

Our first tiny house build is all about demonstrating what can be done and sharing the experience with as many people as possible.

We don’t know what the future of tiny houses is, but we know they have a lot to teach us about housing and living more responsibly!

We have the chance to involve and educate people throughout the build process. What better way than to run a workshop with an experienced tiny house carpenter?

I went to Victoria in late 2015 to participate in my first tiny house build. Even though I have plenty of hands on experience, actually seeing how a build comes together made all the difference to my confidence that I actually can apply my skills to tiny house building. Even those that came to the workshop with no experience on tools left with the same sense of achievement — and a massive set of new skills!

The workshop was run by carpenter Nick Matyevich (with Emmet Blackwell, whose house we worked on). In addition to Nick’s decades of industry experience and tiny house expertise, what I really loved was his warm attitude and clear passion. Nick has transitioned into tiny houses after doing a PDC and converting to permaculture. He’s not ‘just a carpenter’ involved in the tiny house fad.

While I know there are some other fine builders out there running workshops (mostly in Victoria – none yet in SA!), I couldn’t go past Nick for the perfect intro to tiny house building.

Nick is working out his new tiny-house career path while building his own transportable home/workshop at the moment, so we’re lucky he has the flexibility to come over and run this workshop with us in April. Yee-ha! : )


Emmet Blackwell - cladding and waterproof demosWorkshop details
Friday 22 – Monday 25 April
8am-5pm each day
(This includes a regular Friday and ANZAC day holiday Monday.)

Salvaged, timber framed, passive eco designed house.

Workshop covers
— structure from floor to roof
— cladding and waterproofing
— tools
— building to meet planning, code, transportation & sustainability requirements, and to be comfortable in a tiny space!

Healthy lunch and snacks inc vegan options

A secret Norwood location, with easy bus access and parking, a short cycle from the CBD

Our build site is on Kaurna land

Who is it for?
The workshop is designed for those from no to moderate hands-on experience.

This is a chance for everyone to pick up the skills to build themselves, with hands on instruction and pro tips and advice from Nick.

Experienced carpenters and builders are welcome to get in touch about assisting with the build and spending some time with Nick to learn more about the tiny house trade.

There will be plenty of opportunity to join in free working bee days outside this workshop, if you just want to muck in and get things done.

More about the first Own Home tiny house build

TH workshop 1 web flyer