The depressing reality of ‘tiny homes’

Over the past few years we have witnessed housing ‘experts’, planners and policy wonks endlessly spruik ‘tiny homes’ as a solution to Australia’s chronic housing affordability problems. The most recent example was a fortnight ago.

The reality could not be further from the truth. Travel throughout Australia and you will find caravan parks providing long-term leases to the poorest and most marginalised in society. You also won’t find any actual home ownership, since there is no land and no title.

The only difference with “tiny homes” is in name only. It is a marketing con aimed squarely at dressing up something old and depressing – caravan parks used to house the poor – into something that is exciting and new. Add the term “sustainable living” into the mix and you have all the ingredients needed to con the public into believing that tiny homes are a genuine solution to Australia’s busted housing system.

Enter The ABC, which published a depressing article over the weekend on the realities of tiny home living at Fairfield West Caravan Park in Western Sydney:

For those who live here — contractors, shift workers, divorcees, pensioners and ex-cons — it’s often the same story.

They rolled in for a short stay only to put down roots for years, even decades.

For some, a patchy rental history or precarious employment arrangement made it difficult to secure a lease elsewhere…

Fairfield West’s manager, Andrew Drury, keeps watch over the 98 caravans on an extensive CCTV system with nine rotating cameras…

The park’s owner is an investor from the eastern suburbs and Andrew often warns the residents that if the boss is ever “thrown a big bucket of money”, he will sell…

The park makes more than a million dollars a year but, like any investor, George would sell at the right price.

If tiny homes represented a genuine solution to Australia’s housing woes, then why haven’t we witnessed a stampede of people seeking to live in caravan parks?

The fact that such parks are used as emergency accommodation for poor people reveals the true merits of tiny home living. It’s better than homelessness, but not much else.

Sadly, it is easier for policy makers and the media to use marketing spin and propaganda to spruik tiny homes than to actually address housing affordability at its source, through property tax reforms, enforcing a sustainable population policy, freeing up urban land supply and planning, and increasing investment in social housing.

Unconventional Economist


  1. Ritualised Forms

    That piece on the ABC website shone a light on something that a lot of Australians have the fleeting occasional interaction with but rarely ever think about, but are also increasingly haunted by.

    We have, and are still in the process of doing so, marginalised a large number of quite decent Australians.  Every time we look the other way at things like the robo letter debacle, about employment contracts which offer no job security whatsoever, and an entire public sector/social welfare support stance which assumes that if people want support they are ‘undeserving’ or have done something wrong and should be fobbed off with online services which don’t enable any interaction, and with phone lines manned by peons who cant address anything not in the script.

    We really have turned this country from one where there was a considerable degree of egalitarianism and which was once increasingly economically open and prepared to compete in the global economy, to one which is a bubble held in place by governments harvesting resources revenues from mainly international capital, and redistributing proceeds to vested interest groups who for the most part wouldn’t hesitate to sell out their nation, their children, or childrens children, or one assumes their own mothers.

    I can tell you for a fact it isnt just Sydney, or Melbourne. It is Geelong and the Bellarine, it is the outskirts of every large town or city in the country. It isnt just caravan parks, it is people shoehorned into rental accommodation, renting rooms following life events – including job loss, drug dependence, divorce and relationship breakup, all over the country. They include men and women young and old, the deserving and undeserving of our sympathy. It includes very large numbers of people who have done absolutely nothing ‘wrong’ except get sick…..all made to feel by their government and a number of fellow Australians that their seeking support is somehow shameful.

    • Australia was on the right path back in the late 1990s. She was opening up the economy and – most importantly – diversifying the economy from that of primary production. Alas, the easy money from the commodity boom led people to reverse the course – why do we have to suffer from restructuring of the economy when we can easily make money by simply digging the ground?

      The rest is history.

      • Australia was on the right path back in the late 1990s.
        Fooled you.
        Australia has been on the wrong path for a very long time. Keating was the neoliberal spearhead and working-class traitor.

        • Keating had his problems but recognizing the need to diversify the Australian economy from solely primary industries is not one of them.

    • kierans777MEMBER

      We really have turned this country from one where there was a considerable degree of egalitarianism …

      The reason is neoliberalism.

    • The same is true of the 2nd class citizen environment we have allowed to occur in the driver and food delivery businesses. Regardless of them being AU citizens it was never a country I would have imagined as a kid. When they are forced to sleep 15 to a house I argue its not a problem of their making, its a problem Australia allowed to occur.

      From this flows wage abuse, cultural destruction and a greater divide between have’s and have nots.

      Tiny Homes on their own are not a problem if its a choice. Some quite financially capable people choose this living style for environmental and mortgage reasons. Its the forcing or lack of choice which should grate with the Australia I once knew as a kid.

      • Ritualised Forms

        Completely agree, but would be inclined to add to the occupations.  All those working as agriculture, aged care, nursing, cleaning and catering.  But even beyond those types of mainly labouring types, I suspect there are a few ‘’small business’ types who are running (if that is the word) not any organisation which is a business in any sense of the word – insofar as it might actually make money – but rather a ‘business’  which is only viable as a means of writing off energy food petrol and car costs and enabling the individuals doing so to live off effectively the smell of an oily rag.

        A lot of these punters are literally a missed pay, an illness, a car malfunction, or family tragedy or accident away from major trauma……..

        Yet we seem to have a default bureacratic position of its their fault and that should be punished

    • > We have, and are still in the process of doing so, marginalised a large number of quite decent Australians.


      What actually happens when a Currencys Interest Rates goes to -5% ? Do you even have a Currency anymore? Will Governments forcefully hold onto Real Estate and make you use Currency to ensure Aussie Dollars dont actually die? What happens if we see a flight of capital as everyone abandons Aussie Dollars and goes elsewhere?

      At -5% interest rates, is your currency even alive anymore?

    • What we are experiencing is corrupt crony capitalism at its best. A run of 3rd world governments eating up the spoils of what was one of the better 1st world countries. They have perfected the art of making each boom apear to apply to all across the board by constantly ring fencing out the ‘loosers’ and giving them labels to imply a path of chosen failure. Tony Abbot once said “Homeless is a lifestyle choice”. The current 3rd world PM, also religious, holds the same beliefs.

  2. Of course, all the talks about “booms” are propaganda that are designed to change the expectations of the entitled voters to the new reality of lower living standards. Strayan population have been living beyond their means for decades, so it will be no easy task to change the expectations of the entitled population.

  3. “Over the past few years we have witnessed housing ‘experts’, planners and policy wonks endlessly spruik ‘tiny homes’ that they would never live in themselves, but are great for everybody else as a solution to Australia’s chronic housing affordability problems.”

    I think that expresses reality a bit more clearly.

  4. Anyone else heard of the phenomenon of funds buying up caravan parks recently? Any insights to offer on why?

  5. call me ArtieMEMBER

    I read that article. I was impressed by the journalism and blown away by the quality of the photography. Damn, I wish I woulda taken that! Then I noticed that the journalist is also the photographer. Remember her name, she is a talent.
    Artie (ex-photographer)

  6. And what is also happening is a lot is what the ABC story alluded to is how fragile an existence it can be. So many caravan parks, especially on the south coast of NSW around Narooma, many have given notice to their long term tenants to move on, some having spent significant money making their vans or cabins semi permanent. Where do they go?
    The other part of the push to Tiny Homes is, ‘just park them on someone’s land and you’ll be fine’ So now there are hundreds of Tiny Homes without proper services or approvals parked on rural blocks all over Australia.

  7. Tiny homes are not carvans in caravan parks. They are mobile dwellings put on self-owned land in rural areas to circumvent local council planning requirements. They could never be a solution to urban housing shortages, and I don’t think I’ve seen a single site seriously suggesting that.

  8. Why are we Murdering Australians?

    The best part of my day is waking up to read the news, hoping one of our politicians gets assassinated.

    There’s nothing political about whats happening in Australia. Its genocide.

    I realise it hasnt happened today then I get really sad.

  9. Boom Time Are Ahead

    In that ABC article, no wonder Cheryl is broke living in a caravan park.

    She has a cigarette in her hand. Pack a day at that’s an easy $200 per week, $10k per year of disposable income.

  10. Arthur Schopenhauer

    A few years ago, a bloke on here said his Brazilian girlfriend thought Australia was transforming into Brazil. She was right.

    • BaldbadgerMEMBER

      That’s me and she is right. We are a few years behind them but right on track to go down the same path.