Tiny homes become prison cells

Over recent years we’ve read countless media propaganda about how so-called “tiny homes” are a genuine solution to Australia’s chronically poor housing affordability.

These tiny homes – effectively caravans re-branded – are typically marketed as being sustainable, stylish and liveable, often with catchy phrases like “going smaller actually means living larger”.

The global coronavirus outbreak is quickly dispelling this tiny homes propaganda.

With many of us now quarantined, our homes are now serving not only as places of shelter and refuge, but also as workplaces, schools, gyms, theaters, restaurants, and parks.

Those like me living in a traditional detached house with a good sized backyard are coping well. For us, our homes meet all of our basic needs. We have extra rooms for a home office. We have a dishwasher, washing machine and internet. We have areas in which to exercise, get fresh air, be alone or together. And we have space to store grocery supplies.

By contrast, tiny homes and shoe box apartments were never meant to be used multi-functionally beyond basic shelter. These homes offer none of the above advantages. Instead, they wrongly assume that people want to live most of their lives outside in public parks, restaurants, bars and laundromats. And these assumptions have been destroyed by the coronavirus quarantine.

For those crammed into tiny homes or shoe box apartments, they are experiencing living conditions more akin to a prison.

The fact of the matter is that people have always treasured having space.

If tiny homes represented a genuine step-up in living standards, we would have witnessed households clambering to live in caravan parks. The fact that caravan parks are reserved for poor people speaks volumes as to the true merits of tiny home living.

Leith van Onselen


  1. Leith I had always viewed tiny homes as a reaction to the GFC in the US and the huge losses on property and mortgage foreclosures. Tiny homes avoided a bank mortgage and could be towed to work opportunities. But yes upscaled caravans requiring oversized trucks to tow them. And land with services to park them. Agree the detached home still the best solution to house a family … even though the dream gets further away from cbd over time.

  2. And domestic violence cells:

    smaller homes are likely to have fewer ways to report abuse.

    things changed when the school closed on the 14th

    the children were home constantly and they began to irritate my husband.


    When isolating at home becomes a danger to life

    high anxiety, financial stress and changes in routine create a petri dish for conditions of abuse.

    Now the evidence has emerged that we are facing a serious problem in Australia.


  3. darklydrawlMEMBER

    With you on this one Leith. Every morning I wake up thankful that we live in an old school 4br home on it’s own block with a big backyard for the kids to run around in (plus space for a seperate home office). I cannot imagine what it would be like for those folks with two young kids stuck in some two bedder dogbox up in the sky or a McMansion with a 1 metre gap to the fence on all sides. Urrrrgh.

  4. The funny people who live in shipping containers are having problems sourcing them atm. Seen a roadside sign today offering to buy used shipping containers.

    Feburary article: COVID-19 And Global Supply Chains: Watch Out For Bullwhip Effects

    The predictions of a shortage of containers at inland U.S. locations might seem surprising, but that likely is because of the complete drop-off of inbound containers. The situation might be aggravated by people scrambling to make sure they have enough on hand. Those farther down the supply chain might anticipate the shortage and order more empty containers, or they might apply their own judgments or biases in forecasting their needs. This shortage gaming might lead to an amplification of the actual demand, followed by a period of excess inventory of containers piling up. This is what causes the Bullwhip Effect – a common effect in supply chains.

  5. robert2013MEMBER

    If you are single, tiny homes can work quite well, particularly if you park them on a decent size block of land.