“Tiny home” closures push thousands into homelessness


Earlier this month, Australia’s mainstream media was awash with articles touting “tiny homes” as a solution to the nation’s growing homeless epidemic.

For example, SBS News reported the following:

A new Melbourne-based project is aiming to break the cycle of chronic homelessness by using otherwise vacant government land to build “tiny homes”.

Independent community agency Launch Housing is behind the idea which has already seen six tiny homes built in Melbourne’s inner west on unused government land…

Launch Housing chief executive Bevan Warner said the concept was all about using smaller spaces in the best way possible.

“Well it’s a standard home that’s shrunk. It’s 20 square metres inside with about nine square metres of front and back balconies and sitting on a plot of land of between 60 to 90 square metres,” he said…

“We think it’s a fantastic way to tackle chronic homelessness.”

And here’s Realestate.com.au:


The Harris Transportable Housing Project is one of several tiny home villages around the country. These villages aim to provide immediate housing to those who are experiencing homelessness.

This project first began two years ago with the aim of creating tiny houses that would sit on unused government land for tenants to live in on a long-term basis…

The project will establish nine tiny home villages with a total of 57 homes on empty Vic Roads land…

The units currently sit on Vic Roads land that won’t be needed for a decade, but the authority will give tenants 12 months’ notice should the land be required.

Sounds good, right? The problem is, “tiny home” villages have been closing down left, right and centre across Australia, throwing thousands of people into homelessness. From ABC News:

Across the country caravan parks are closing down, leaving many residents who turned to them as a place of last resort now scrambling for new affordable homes…

Peter Morris and Wayne Iremonger are among the latest facing an uncertain future, and time is running out for the neighbours… with its closure looming, Mr Morris said about 130 other permanent residents were looking for another place to live…

“There’s nowhere for us to go… It’s terrible,” he said…

What is happening in Victoria is just a small example of a much bigger issue…

The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) warns affordable options are drying up.

“We’re seeing hundreds and hundreds of people turfed out of caravan parks, rooming houses, other marginal accommodation every year,” CHP CEO Jenny Smith said…

Making matters worse, Ms Smith said at least six caravan parks have recently closed in Victoria, with each one sheltering up to 200 people.


So while the mainstream media is busy talking up a handful of “tiny homes” being built on unused government land, literally thousands of tiny home caravan parks are closing down, throwing many times more people into homelessness.

And herein lies the rub. “Tiny homes” are really just marketing spin. They are nothing more than caravans rebranded to sound trendy.

Such living arrangements have existed for decades, only there is less stigma attached to living in a “tiny home” than a caravan or trailer park. “Tiny homes” are branded to sound environmentally sustainable and cute, whereas caravans and trailer parks are associated with poverty and marginalisation.


Regardless, the outcomes are the same. Tenants are usually poor and just one rung above homelessness. They live in a confined space. And there is no actual ownership since they don’t own the land.

The overwhelming majority of tenants do not choose to live in these types of accommodation, they do so because they have no other choice. It’s a “tiny home” or caravan, or it is living on the street.

They are a band aid solution to a housing crisis that policy makers have no genuine intent on fixing.


It’s time the mainstream media sees “tiny homes” for what they are: caravans in disguise and a marketing con job.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.