Tiny houses: the future of urban living?

Hi, New Zealand and Australia.

We’re well aware of the housing issues both countries face. There’s plenty of concern about both housing supply and prices, and fair enough.

Last week’s Compact Housing Seminar reminded us that housing demand in Sydney’s outer suburbs is projected to grow by 200%. Meanwhile, Auckland’s Unitary Plan is focused on medium to high density living, mostly in existing city boundaries.

Compact living in our big cities is clearly the future. But, how to do it?

A couple of recent articles have perhaps one solution. It’s a little out there, but worth examining.


That’s right, tiny little houses. All shaped differently to fit into whatever space they need to. It’s like Tetris, but with real estate.

Ever heard of ‘spite houses’? According to Wikipedia, a spite house is “a building constructed or modified to irritate neighbours or other parties with land stakes. Spite houses often serve as obstructions, blocking out light or access to neighbouring buildings, or as flamboyant symbols of defiance.”

Spite house back entranceEntering the market last week was the Montlake Spite House in Seattle. It’s just 77 square metres, and stretches out to 4.5 metres wide at the front and only 1.4 metres at the back. This pizza slice-shaped house was built in a small front yard back in 1925.

Reasons vary as to why it was built: most believe it was constructed by an angry ex wife who wound up, post-divorce, owning just the front yard. Others believe the landowner, after receiving a low offer for his property from his neighbour, retaliated by building this right next to the cheapskate.

Spite house living room

The house may have been born from spite, but a lot of love has been put into the insides. The living room is surprisingly livable. The kitchen? The vendor reckons she couldn’t open the oven without standing to the side. Good to see some truth in advertising.

Despite its size, or perhaps due to its novelty, the house sold last weekend for $397,500. Sorry, neighbours, house ain’t going nowhere.

Here’s a tiny house that wasn’t built by anger:


Land space is at a premium in Japan. So when you’ve got tiny spaces on your land to build on, what else to do but ingeniously make the most of it.

The article this comes from features nine more houses of similar size. Among the highlights:

Japan tiny gun shaped house

This gun-shaped home had 55 square metres of room to fill. But who needs that much space? This home measures just half that and still fits in a sleeping area, open plan living and a small loft.


No wider than three metres, Lucky Drop House makes the Montlake Spite House look like the Dotcom Mansion. It’s hard, however, to decide whether the inside is cutting edge design or a prison hallway.


My personal favourite: Tokyo’s Split House. Divided in two by a garden, it has a sense of warmth that’s essential to turning the house into a home. And that’s vital if you’re spending any length of time in these.

Split House inside

How about closer to home? At the Auckland Home Show I got to check out MiniHome Limited. Their MiniHomes range in size from small to extra small – but still with everything you need in a home. During my thorough, one minute tour of their show home, it was easy to forget that they’re only 3.6 metres wide and 6-12 metres long.


Got some space on your back lawn? Get the house built off site and delivered to you. You can even get solar panels fitted if you want off the grid. In short, it’s just like a real home – only smaller.

With more and more people fighting over less and less city space, we could well see more and more of these mini houses springing up.

But if you’d rather have a spite house, some of those Japanese houses will fit nicely on your berm.

What do you think – are these houses homely enough? Could you see yourself living in any of them? Have your say in the comments or on one of our Facebook pages.

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