Tiny House Living – to buy or not to buy a house

Is tiny house a viable alternative for people who aren’t able to buy their first home?

Tiny house has become a solution to house shortages. Over that last decade European tiny house start-ups have filled a gap in the market. These are mainly carpenters turned business owners who have spotted this new niche in the market. Today, we mainly have French, Polish, Romanian, British, and Lithuanian manufacturers shaping this tiny segment of the house market.

It is clear to me, based on talks I have had with tiny house designers, builders and owners, that the market is likely to grow. And reasons are manifold: attractiveness, mobility and soaring house prices. People learn about tiny house owning advantages and want to own one. Across much Europe owning a first home is beyond reach for most people, especially first time buyers. This reinforces social and economic viability of this emerging, innovative housing sector. Therefore, greater number of people tries to figure out how to afford and own the roof over their heads. The tiny house, as it slowly rolls into Europe, may be the answer for many Europeans looking for more affordable housing.

Tiny house lifestyle – does it all add up?

The recent figures from the French Institute of Statistics (INSEE) speak for themselves.  Only 23% of under 30s in France own their own home.  For an age group of 30-39 the number goes up to 55% and it’s at 60.8% for the 40-49 years old. A low 38% of all homeowners in France don’t have a mortgage. The Institute’s tenancy totals, for each EU member state in 2016, show Germany at the top with 48.3%, Austria taking second place with 45% and 31% for the Netherlands. The figures for the UK and France were 36.6% and 35.1% respectively.  So we can see that most people rent a house for years.

Why first-time buyers cannot buy their home?

There are three factors in this: affordability, shortage of houses and location.

Transient job market pushes people towards overpriced cities and into renting. As we need to be more mobile and go where the jobs are. Also, even if it’s possible to get on the housing ladder, this locks people into debt. So is tiny house living a solution?  Tiny houses on wheels are a great choice for anyone wanting to downsize. With more disposable income and resources you can enjoy life without pressure of paying back mortgage and steep utility bills. The bills are still there. What’s different is a much cheaper cost of running your own tiny home.  An efficiently run tiny home allows the best lifestyle the tiny living can deliver. With almost zero costs, we can live our dreams.

Tiny house living can help us regenerate communities

<img decoding=

Digital nomads and creatives can take their house with them to a new location. So this new alternative lifestyle is attractive for many reasons. Firstly, owning or renting a tiny home gives clear financial advantages. This lifestyle also comes with a social upside. We can have a simpler and more fulfilling life, more free time and much greater mobility. Finally, we can choose our own neighbours. Tiny house living has a role to play in enriching our communities. By design, tiny house focuses our living around the outdoors. Tiny homeowners spend more time outside and with others.

Innovative zoning of tiny house sites creates meaningful ways for community interaction. Residents can spend more time together and collaborate on projects if they wish. It is a bit like living in an ecovillage. Everyone has their own living space and shares in collective activities if they decide to. Some American town halls have caught on to this growing trend and are ahead of the game. For example, Fresno city in California is piloting such schemes to address a growing interest and demand for tiny home sites. In France, tiny house development efforts revolve around the idea of self-sufficiency. It is perhaps a matter of time when such sites become a necessary affordable housing.

Self-building is gaining traction among DIYers with carpentry skills. A great thing is that you can construct your tiny home ecologically. Big savings are possible working with salvaged second-hand timber and other materials. Overall self-building aspect is especially popular in some regions of Western Europe. Land use regulations are more flexible and hence easier to navigate. There is also a culture of acceptance among residents to welcome tiny house owners in their neighbourhoods.

In Europe, the tiny house movement is at an exciting juncture. We are going to see a lot more innovation in coming years. I believe that it can go from strength to strength and become as vibrant as its North American counterpart.

How sustainable are tiny houses?

Making of tiny houses uses wood as a staple and most natural material there is. Timber embodies soft qualities of comfort and wellbeing. For most of us these are features that make a perfect home. No one can resist timber’s undeniable appeal to our senses and soul. But is that it? My experience tells me that today’s homeowners want their houses to be also ecological and energy efficient. And tiny house owners and designers are no different. Tiny homes come with the most sophisticated ergonomic and energy-efficient designs and technologies.

The ease of working with natural materials and responsible harvesting are the goal of many home builders. Tiny house buyers can align their environmental concerns with simplicity of living. Tiny house construction comes with environmental responsibility and choice. Why? The shell is made up almost entirely of wood and so is the purpose made furniture. This is a lot of wood. Thus, it is wise to make sure that your timber comes from sustainable forests. Also, the EU and UK harvest only around 50-60% of building timber a year. And so this makes them net-importers of wood and various timber products. It is prudent to check the timber source before buying. The way to know this is to ask your supplier for a certification. If it has got it, you are good to go. If it doesn’t, you may need to search elsewhere. That way we prevent illegal deforestation and climate change.

How do I know if my timber is sustainable and didn’t cause deforestation?

Many common wood species such as spruce, pine and red cedar are certified and come with these labels: Forest Stewardship Council’s certification – FSC or PEFC which is a Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. However, many still don’t. This includes Siberian larch, which we get from Euro-Asian forests that don’t have the same protection. So it’s in our best interest to look out for the FSC and PEFC Certified labels or PEFC Recycled labels.

These labels mean that companies harvesting timber had met ecological criteria before they could join the schemes. You should see a serial code assigned to a company or a product displaying it. You as a customer can then verify it on FSC and PEFC sites. There is another industry tool that can help us to choose sustainable forest products. For instance, we want to buy a new piece of furniture and want to know if the whole product is made from 100% certified wood. We can look out for a tracking tool, Chain of Custody (CoC). This tool monitors the supply and processing of timber. From the source, down the chain and through to the final product. While the first is a voluntary scheme for forest products businesses, the FSC label is compulsory. It ensures that both the forests and workers have rights.

In comparison, 30 national forest certification programmes make up the PEFC. Only companies that hold a valid PEFC CoC certificate can display PEFC Certified or PEFC Recycled labels.

The tiny house lifestyle – a perfect synergy of human needs and eco design

Space is at a premium in a tiny home. This presents some challenges in how we design every inch of space we have. This can, equally, be an opportunity to innovate. And as a popular saying has it, necessity is the mother of invention. This has never been truer in the case of tiny house design.

Having owned a couple of campervans, I am especially aware of this aspect of tiny living. Like many travellers, I appreciate a beautiful and smart design when I see it. Today multifunctional and modular solutions continue to improve tiny house designs. As someone who renovated my own homes, I find inspiration in diverse eco designs. The philosophy and highly personalised eco-designs of Hundertwasser, Gaudi and Buckminster Fuller are my favourites.

Their designs incorporate many natural materials from adobe and fired clay to hemp and straw. I learned early on that the best designs look at the house as an integrated system. This also applies to a tiny house. A dwelling that seamlessly incorporates the use of eco and healthy materials in its fabric will impact the cost of running your house and your life directly. Ecological fixtures and furnishings in a tiny house are also a basis of such design.

Today, many books and magazines guide us through the process of buying or making a tiny house. So it is rather easy to find inspiration when equipping our tiny house. Or just re-thinking the use of space in our home. So watch the tiny house concept as it rolls into the future.


Christopher Alexander A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. Oxford University Press, 1977.

The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. Online source

PEFC data https://www.pefc.co.uk/chain-of-custody-logo-use/pefc-logo-use

PEFC image https://www.pefc.co.uk/

Space-saving folding chairs image, https://design-milk.com/three-legged-chair-neatly-folds-flat/

Folding table image, https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/677932550170002179/