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!)

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

Durning’s ‘Unlocking Home’

North American Alan Durning launches a scathing and insightful attack on our planning system and its impact on housing affordability.

He starts by lamenting NIMBY attitudes to highrise housing in his local neighbourhood.  He’s given up on the significant expansion of highrise development in the near term.

He offers instead some planning changes that can, with substantially less political capital, achieve greater density, and greater availability of affordable housing, without ‘upzoning’.  Essentially by removing unnecessary regulation which only exists to protect the interests of the privileged.

It’s hard to work out how realistic he thinks these changes are… which he paints as relatively easy, but which clearly are entrenched — if not as clear as opposition to highrises, then at least twice as subtle.

I can’t do better than to quote a few paragraphs from his introduction:

“Each of these strategies has the potential to win political acceptance soon in cities far and wide. Each costs cities basically nothing to implement. Each requires no public spending, just that the city clerk use the delete key on various lines of municipal code. Each would step up residential concentration
organically, without big changes in architectural character.  …

Above all else, each of these strategies could unlock homes for people who need them. They could generate thousands and thousands of units of inexpensive housing dispersed across entire metropolitan areas—in the form of new and converted boardinghouses, empty bedrooms rented out for the first time,
and basement apartments and newfangled garden huts tucked among the detached houses that make up the overwhelming majority of Northwest residences. In fact, these strategies might generate far more units of inexpensive housing than public subsidies currently supply…”

“At root, the problem is the too-powerful classist impulse for better-off people to exclude renters, people of pinched means, recent immigrants, students, and others who cannot afford to buy single-family homes. This impulse manifests itself in complicated and even subconscious ways. Sometimes it is even expressed
as a form of concern for vulnerable people. This theme will recur throughout the book. For now, an analogy will suffice.

Poor and working-class people tend to wear inexpensive shoes. They buy their kicks at places like Payless or Goodwill, not Nordstrom. Payless and Goodwill shoes are known for their low prices, not their sturdiness or fashion. Still, they do their job. To improve footwear among those without funds, banning
the sale of inexpensive pairs would do no good. Sending shoe inspectors to Payless to confiscate “substandard” clogs and Oxfords would eliminate them from stores, it’s true. But it would do nothing to make good shoes affordable to people who do not have much money. Sure, some low-income people would buy nicer shoes, by spending extra on shoes and less on other things. Others would buy cheap shoes
on the black market. Still others wouldn’t buy footwear at all: they would go shoeless.

This scenario is essentially what housing policy does in North America.”

“If everyone knew that a major purpose of city land-use laws—also called zoning—was to choke off the bottom end of the private housing market so that middle- and upper-class people would not have to live near renters, recent immigrants, and other working-class citizens, we might do better. We might rise up
and throw off these unjust rules. But, unfortunately, almost no one understands how land-use laws work. …

The immodest goal of this book is to lift the fog off the legal doors to common-sense, green housing solutions. Enabling reformers to find these doors is the first step toward unlocking them.”

Yes he is writing about ‘Cascadia’, the pacific north-west of the US and Canada… but I don’t think there is much difference to our situation here in Australia, terminology aside.

Hard hitting, well informed, clearly argued and concise, Durning’s book is well worth a review.

You can find it as a free pdf in various places online, as well as much of the material as blog posts on Durning’s own website (Sightline Institute, Sightline.org – e.g. this article on Vancouver’s supposed successful legalization of ADUs / secondary dwellings).

It’s worth the $3 for the ebook though.