Politics & Current Affairs

Are tiny houses a viable option for students?6 min read

Imagine graduating and being able to own a house. Is that too good to be true?

Perhaps not if you’re open-minded enough to consider downsizing to a tiny house.

The tiny house

If you are like most current graduates or soon-to-be graduates, it’s most likely that you are a Zoomer. Being one really just means being part of generation Z (born between 1995 and 2015) and being defined by things like: our digital nativeness (we help grandma with the TV) and disgust towards cash payments (a drop in 20 per cent in fact).

Being a Zoomer also means having lived through some significant moments in time. The oldest of our generation experienced 9/11 and its consequences at the age of six. Then, one year after the release of the first iPhone, the 2008 recession flipped our economy on its head and sent nations into years of recovery. Between 2010 and the easy-going year of 2020 (sarcasm), housing prices have only rocketed, while Trump and Brexit graced the screens of our over-priced iPhones. It seems every living moment is either unprecedented or a global emergency.

This, strangely enough, brings me to a growing community called the tiny house movement. The movement is about people choosing to live in — you guessed it — tiny houses. Graduating students face a complex world where any type of economic prosperity is uncertain. Looming debts and a pandemic-threatened job market don’t boost the confidence of those taking fragile first steps into careers. However, that is where the economic freedom that a tiny house could grant comes to play.

So what makes a tiny house a tiny house?

The typical tiny house is usually less than 8ft by 20ft (2.4 by 6.1 m). The liveable space totalling 120 sq ft (11m2) or less. In the UK, trailers for tiny houses are anywhere between 16ft to 25ft long and 7ft to 8ft wide (maximum 18.5m2and 200 sq ft). That’s about the same size if you chopped a London Double Decker Bus in half (removing the second deck). Basically, enter through the middle doors and look to the back of the bus, that’s about how big a tiny house is.
What they bring
With so little space you’d expect to miss out on a lot of amenities. Well, most tiny houses actually have toilets, kitchens, bed space and even some extra living/storage space. I have seen some with baths and even one that has a sauna!
Notable features
These houses can, importantly, be very environmentally friendly. They can be completely off-grid with their own solar panels. Tiny houses are also often built from reclaimed materials. They effectively lower costs and harm to the planet. Additionally, most of them fit on a trailer. So you are never stuck to one location, giving you a lot of freedom. Since they are so small they also don’t need building permits. You could consider it a small but important DIY project.
Average price of bought tiny house: £36,000

Average price of self-built tiny house: £20,000

Going back to the woes that Zoomers have suffered, some positives do glitter in the dark. Being a digitally native generation, many find it possible to work from home on their computers. 1.5 million people currently work from home in the UK, and that number isn’t dwindling as younger generations join the workforce. Naturally, you can’t quite park a tiny house wherever you want in London or Paris. However, the rising rent prices in cities have actually forced many big employers out of urban areas. Now they’re moving closer to where a tiny house could be park.

As I’ve mentioned before, the average price of a purchased pre-built tiny house is about  £36,000 , while, when it’s self-built, it could be  £20,000 . Yet, there is a17-year-old who managed to build a space for just £6,000! For comparison’s sake, a studio located in central London that is just under the maximum size of tiny house, costs a whopping £345,000. Against this central-London flat, a pre-made tiny house is £309,000 cheaper. With that kind of money, you could get:

  • Two Lamborghini Huracans
  • 33 years of BA Journalism at City, University of London
  • 19,312 Five Guys double cheeseburger and fries meals

Shrinking to petite spaces may feel overwhelming, as many of us have lots of possessions and needs. This brings us to an essential part of the tiny house movement which is often described as downsizing. Simply put, it’s a commitment to minimalism. It’s a commitment to sacrificing the things you want but don’t necessarily need, to reap the benefits of a tiny house.

Some people find an odd comfort in only having the bare essentials, and some people dread the idea of compost toilets. But there is some relief against the harsh rules of minimalism. It is the opportunities you get by designing your own house. You like cooking and find that you spend a lot of time outside of your house? Shrink the living room and expand your countertops. You might find that your bed is the place to be, so prioritise the size of your loft. And yes, compost toilets aren’t your only option. There are many YouTube videos where you can explore these design choices. Pay attention to how everyone’s personality and needs to reflect their living spaces. I personally recommend the Living Big In A Tiny House YouTube channel.

Now, of course, there are negatives. For example, it was only after the market crash in 2008 that tiny houses really began to get a following. So the legality of living in them permanently is still a bit of a grey area in many countries. There are naturally people who simply have no other option than to live in the city. Moreover, minimalism is definitely not for everyone, and sometimes space is crucial. Here’s an article by a couple who actually live in a tiny house going a little more in-depth on their grievances.

But maybe a tiny house is the answer for you. If you have space and the funding, maybe it’s time to do some research and see how much you could benefit from living small. Mobility, self-sufficiency, and little or no debt are all attractive benefits for a student, but are the sacrifices worth it? Scaling down may not be for everyone, but it has proven a practical and effective solution for many.

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