“Tiny homes” are a marketing con

The growing “tiny home” movement must be one of the greatest marketing cons pulled off in recent years.

With home ownership on the decline across much of the developed world, and homelessness rising, policy makers and the media have managed to convince the general public into believing that stuffing people into glorified caravans and trailer parks is in their best interest.

A recent article from the Vancouver Sun encapsulates the brainwashing taking place:

There is nothing small about the tiny-home craze… From flat pack, self-assembly cabins, to repurposed shipping containers, to small homes on wheels, there is now something out there to suit every site and budget…

Delta’s Mint Tiny Homes make homes that range in length from 22 to 44 feet, all on wheels, for easy transportation and are RV certified. They range in price from around $75,000 to $100,000…

Their most popular tiny home over the past few months is their Canada Goose model, says McBride, which is their largest offering, ranging in length from 38 to 44 feet. “These are popular with families, those who want that extra space, and extra storage. Also with those who want the standup bedroom”…

Because Mint Tiny Homes are on wheels, they don’t require foundations or any hookups, says McBride. They can be used the moment they’re driven onto a property…

The demand for tiny homes, he says, is growing… “If you look at the U.S., and California, there’s a new city every month opening up its bylaws for tiny homes. Even Oregon and Texas. More and more cities are becoming tiny-home friendly,” he says.

So, buyers are looking to pay around $75,000 for a 22 foot “tiny home” or $100,000 for a 44 foot “family friendly” home. And they come on wheels!

Guess what also comes on wheels: a caravan. That’s right, before marketers devised the clever name “tiny homes”, we called them exactly what they are: “caravans” and “trailer homes”.

Just like “tiny homes” there is no actual ownership, since they come with no land. Only “caravans” and “trailer homes” were traditionally used to house the poorest and most marginalised in society, and were considered one step above homelessness:

However, by using the cute name of “tiny homes”, policy charlatans can pass them off as a fake solution to a housing affordability problem they have no genuine intent on fixing.

You see, it’s easier to use marketing spin and propaganda than to actually address housing affordability at its source, via reforming property taxation, freeing up urban planning, enforcing a sustainable population policy, and increasing investment into public housing.

Leith van Onselen
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  1. UE you are quite right, especially as you have to be physically fit to get to the loft in some of these homes. So they are not a replacement home especially for older folk. However they got kicked off by the reaction to the GFC in the US, so many houses repossessed and the young generation wanting to keep debt down. But as an alternative to permanent housing stock? Please.

    • Strange Economics of IO and NGMEMBER

      They’d be OK if you could park it by right at South Yarra near a train station…
      Ooops where’s the land actually ? 50km out…

      They should be able to be parked anywhere there is unused or unrented land.

  2. Fishing72MEMBER

    I wonder if the proliferation of caravan parks morphing into “ lifestyle villages “ aka impromptu subdivisions , will become a precursor to the introduction of subleasing private land for tiny home villages ?

    If you had a spare suburban bock you could sublease it to a few tiny homes rather than building permanent structures.

    There’ll be all kinds of crazy real estate derivative schitt in the pipeline as people get shoehorned into the Western world.

  3. It needs to be pointed out every time the subject of “tiny homes” comes up, that in cities that don’t have a housing affordability problem anyway, McMansions are $250,000 and tiny homes are $40,000.

    When the pocket-hanky piece of dirt you are going to put the tiny house on, costs you $250,000 to start with, something is very rotten in the state of Australia.

    In fact under the prevailing economic distortions in urban land prices, the more that people can be crammed in, the more exponential the land price inflation. It is “elastic to allowed density”, and so elastic that the more crammed-in the population are, the HIGHER the per-unit housing price, not the lower.

    Utopian planning myths hold that intensification is the answer for housing affordability issues. This is a lie that is highly convenient to the land-rentier and finance sector rentier interests.

    The flipside of this dichotomy about urban land prices, is that freedom to sprawl is so effective at suppressing land rent, that there are US cities with 1/2-acre minimum lot size mandates for new subdivisional development, and the median multiple house price remains around “3”. The land price can vary, exponentially, in the “wrong” direction, by a factor of hundreds or even thousands. Even in third-world cities, the fact that the people are crammed in at 20,000 per square kilometer does not mean that “housing units” are affordable; it means the real land price is thousands of times higher than in a first-world median-multiple-3 city with 2,000 people per square kilometer.

    This is the reason that density is also strongly associated with the perpetuation of illegal housing conditions. Pre-sprawl, a high proportion of the population are little more than squatters, under a piece of corrugated iron propped up with a stick. In the case of post-sprawl regulatory rationing of land, the housing paradigm goes into reverse; in the UK (thanks to several decades more of this land-rationing utopianism), the authorities cannot control the extent of “illegal” letting of lofts, garden sheds, garages etc. There is massive pent-up pressure for squatting on the Green Belts, which could quickly resemble Mumbai and Sao Paulo if the authorities were not as draconian as they are, meeting any attempts at squatting on the Green Belt with immediate full-on “anti riot” measures, water cannon, tear gas, batons, handcuffs and Black Marias. And bulldozers for any temporary shelters that have been erected.

    But “legal” tiny homes are fine, just as long as you are feeding the land-rent monster with your tribute payment of several thousand dollars per square inch of land space you need.

    • +1, as always.
      It’s a land bubble and not expensive housing that is causing these problems. Cheaper housing, in the form of tiny homes, just leave the spender with more cash to bid up the land price.

    • blindjusticeMEMBER

      Spot on, people have been brainwashed into thinking sprawl is a terrible thing due to factors like obesity and emissions. Well people need space and electric cars and increasing use of renewables is increasing. Obesity needs to be tackled through diet.
      Its not like commuting times are reducing because of high density. Its not like we use less land *overall* through high density – we use just as many resources through increase mining and agriculture needed for bigger populations.

    • Dale SmithMEMBER

      And of course just because it’s legal does not mean it’s right.

      And in NZ, we are just about to find out how legal they are: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/396197/tiny-house-court-case-a-landmark-for-future-of-owners-in-new-zealand

      The reality is, the very shape of a tiny house is designed by rules (towable width, height and weight), not because it is the ‘optimum shape for ‘happy’ human living, although the marketing spin would have you believe it is.

      And as you allude to Phil, the cost of a tiny home in NZ/Aus would get you a proper starter home and spacious section in many other first world jurisdictions.

  4. The Horrible Scott Morrison MP

    Young people are smart enough to ignore your drivel and to recognise the joys of tiny homes, tiny jobs and tiny savings balances. A tiny home is a great place to peacefully enjoy some avocado on toast whilst contemplating your preferred non-gendered pronoun.

  5. This is just a fairy tale. Tiny home market records high growth of 100% per year (from one sold in 2017 to 2two in 2018). None believes in that story anyway.
    On the other side most of sub $2m inner suburbs mouldy windowless terraces are actualy smaller than tiny houses

  6. Stewie GriffinMEMBER

    The “Trailer Park Boys” will be disapointed to hear that they are now the “Tiny Home Boys”…. I suspect this will negatively impact their marketing and sense of self…. yet another identity crisis for poor white males.

    No more ‘two smokes’ for Ricky, it will be kombucha and coffee from now on.

  7. If you have been waiting for the right time to sell snake oil, its now. Everything has been infected with our fake times. Was only a matter of time we started selling fake homes with fake money for the fake dream

  8. You’re right, it’s a con, a feint…

    It say “accept that status quo without question, and here’s a band-aid fix”.

    When we should actually be questioning the status quo and refusing, the bandaid, and insisting on fundamental change.

    Idealistic, I know…but when and where do we stand?