Honey, I shrunk the house

IT’S a big plan…for tiny houses.

The City of Fremantle wants other councils to buy into its plan to attract more people to inner-urban areas by offering them tiny houses, sometimes on tiny blocks.

The city has teamed up with the Planning Institute Australia, Property Council and Shelter WA to spruik its plan to other WA councils at a panel discussion at the Central Park Theatrette, on St Georges Terrace, on November 21 from 3-5pm.

Freo council’s planning boss Paul Garbett says the city is full of big houses, often with just one or two people rattling around in them, which creates issues for owners and renters.

“Lots of bigger and more expensive houses,” Mr Garbett says.

The council’s policy tries to balance increasing the population with safeguards to protect the character and aesthetics of each suburb, and greenery with a minimum of 70 per cent open space on a block. Parking remains the most contentious issue, as the council is saying it won’t provide on-street residential bays and some small developments may get away with a minimum of parking requirements.

Planning Institute of Australia Executive Officer Emma de Jager says current zoning regulations often stipulate a minimum sub-division size, and supports Freo’s small block plan.

• Freo councillor Rachel Pemberton’s drive to create infill with tiny houses – leaving a bit of room for some greenery – has been a key behind its success so far. File photo

She says they can be made economically attractive and a good long-term investment if the council gets the rules right.

Ms de Jager says homes could be built for as little as $50,000 (similar to what you can get away with on a granny flat), although was hesitant to predict what price a small home/land package might fetch on the market.

“Even though these developments are considered at the affordable end they must have great design and sustainable attributes; the environment is a key consideration,” Ms de Jager says.

Under Freo’s plan, tiny houses would need a minimum 1.5kw photovoltaic solar panel system and a sustainability star rating above the National Construction Code.

Each little home will need optimal climate orientation, material recycling and energy efficiency, and 30 square metres of outdoor living directly accessible from a habitable room.

Shelter WA’s Robert Gough says one of the effects of the policy would actually be to help homeless people.

He says particularly young people are vulnerable to Freo’s high rents and limited housing, which meant they often ended up couch surfing with friends and relatives, or had to move away from the city.

“The existing privately-owned blocks will allow owners to get better use out of their yards,” Mr Gough says.

He says Freo’s move to link the tiny housing developments to public transport would help people with lower incomes.


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