Monday, 15 February 2016

Is Tiny, or Micro, Desirable?

Container City 2, London. Photo by Cmglee under creative commons license
Regular viewers of this blog will know that sometimes, when work and early sunsets prevent me getting outside exploring, I write more magazine style, or dare I say it "lifestyle" (AAARGGGGGHHHH) entries about subjects close to my heart.

I'm not brainy enough to explain the gravitational waves shindig to anyone, so I thought I'd take a look at another subject that interests me. Housing, specifically, alternative housing.

I have often expressed how I find the idea of recycling shipping containers as affordable housing really appealing, and was excited to see that the city of Brighton had put up a development of container housing for vulnerably housed people in the city.

I'd always wondered how that development went, and found an article yesterday that initially identified problems with cold, rusting, drug addict tenants and a feeling that perhaps the development was a PC foothold into an expensive city to get developer hands on some cheap city centre land rather than a genuine social project. At £650 a month rental, it was hardly cheap either, and architects expressed reservations in the structural integrity of any container building that wasn't a simple stack.

However, within their limitations, it seems there have been successful projects made from container homes, although only as short term residencies.

New York has been experimenting with micro apartments but the rents on these seem even more horrendous, and the whole set up looks like accomodation for laboratory animals.

However, Sweden has shown that you can come up with far more attractive micro dwellings that offer personable living at a far more reasonable cost.

Here in the UK, the concept of tiny housing has now caught on from the states, which try to offer small scale living on perhaps a more investable basis - a fully fitted out micro home can be available for little more than £10,000 and transported on wheels to your place of living, a home that could perhaps be sold at a profit later on or rented out, rather than the first time fledgling sinking all their money into the black hole of rent.

Yes they are impractical in many ways, and actually situating one in a city near your workplace might be rather tricky. But surely, there are brownfield sites in cities where little tiny house villages could spring up, with a sense of place and community. For it is the space without, rather than the space within, that is important in many ways.

It all seems crazy, but for me, and thousands, probably millions more in this country, it seems like it could be the only option to ever own any kind of small piece of real estate close to a city workplace. I'd have one like a shot if I needed to. We are far to wed to large footprint bricks and mortar housing in this country, and we need to think differently if many of us ever want to haul ourselves out of the long term rental trap.


All text copyright CreamCrackeredNature 15.02.16


  1. Hi from Canada. Many towns and cities in Canada allow you to put a smaller house on the same lot with the original house. The go by names such as carriage houses, guest suites, mother-in-law house etc. There are two builders here in Manitoba that build tiny houses. One uses the shipping containers and have been successful to some degree. They have to be planned out well as we can get as cold as -50C. The other company builds them out of wood. He started his business last year and it has really taken off. I read he built 500 of them last year and is looking at tripling them this year. I am very interested in this movement as I plan to build one on my daughter's lot later this year. She lives in a small town. The other idea they have here is to tear down the original house then subdivide the lot in two and build two smaller houses. Those are called infill houses. It works. With the economy here, higher priced houses are not selling as fast. Everyone wants smaller cheaper housing and rooms for gardens. As of now few towns allow chickens. That will change soon I think.

    1. Hi nice to see you, thank you! planning laws in the UK are very difficult, you'd struggle to put even a small wooden house in your garden without falling foul of it. But we do need to think about it in this country.

  2. Very interesting and links worth visiting. A friend of more old-fashioned architecture, I could however see myself living in a building like that, if well insulated and... well, without drug addict neighbours.