October 18th, 2017
A motion brought by a Kildare Councillor calling on the Government to permit a Tiny House pilot project in Naas passed yesterday afternoon.
Independent Councillor Sorcha O’Neill raised the motion at yesterday’s Naas Municipal District meeting seeking that a pilot project is permitted for inclusion in the Naas Local Area Plan, which is up for review soon.
The Naas municipal district will now write to the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to request that Naas is “considered for a pilot project for a Sustainable Tiny House Development” as stand-alone properties as well as Additional Developmental Units (ADUs) on existing properties.
Under successful ADU systems in North America, homeowners can build and rent out the Tiny House at an affordable rate. Alternatively, the homeowner can decide to live in the smaller structure and rent out their primary larger residence at a controlled, affordable cost for low-income families.
Ms O’Neill said that it could be a “fantastic opportunity” for Naas to be the first Local Authority to trial this type of development.
“Hopefully, the National Committee will give us the power to proceed, as it would be a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate and effect real change in our carbon footprints and will also help with the current housing crisis,” she added.
The Tiny House
The features of a Tiny House greatly vary from owner to owner, but a typical tiny home is less than 30m2 and usually consists of a great room that combines both kitchen and living room. The interior design of a Tiny House also employs loft bedrooms, convertible couches, foldaway tables, and clever shelving solutions that solve storage issues.
Communities are popping up across the world, and there are numerous examples of projects using Tiny Houses to tackle homelessness and create affordable housing for low-income families, young couples, students and the elderly.
At present, there is a national target for a minimum floor area for a one bedroom dwelling of 44m2 as set out in the Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities document.
Local authorities also have the right to set out target minimum dwelling sizes. In Kildare, for example, a one bedroom dwelling must “have regard to” the minimum floor area of 55m2.
Benefit for All Needs
Architect and Tiny House researcher, Laura O’Driscoll, said that she was “delighted” to hear that Naas is open to the idea of the Tiny House as a “legitimate and necessary development allowing people to build sustainably and within their means”.
She said that students having difficulty finding affordable rental accommodation, young couples wishing to avoid a large mortgage, and elderly people no longer needing their larger home “can all benefit from this proposal”.
She added that the development of Tiny House communities or their use as ADUs could result in “increased densities in our urban zones, a sharing of resources, and an increase in local revenue”.
Tiny Houses are also an option for young adults living at home with their parents that are unable to afford rent or a mortgage, she said. There are now over 450,000 persons aged 18 and over living at home with their parents, 40 per cent of whom are in employment.
“Tiny houses are a housing typology that needs to be accepted into our matrix of house types in Ireland, in order to accommodate our changing demographics and requirements as a nation,” Ms O’Driscoll said.
Irish Dwelling Size
According to Ms O’Driscoll, smaller builds are a “rich part of our heritage”, pointing to the traditional stone cottage that today “unearths romantic notions of old Ireland”.
“The difference now is that we have the combined knowledge, skills and resources to build sustainable homes that are safe and healthy,” she added.
According to the CSO, the average floor area of an Irish house was 173m2 at the start of 2017, a significant increase from the average of 105m2 at the end of the 1970s. This is despite the average household size falling from 3.73 in 1979 to 2.75 persons in 2017.
In 2015, Fresno – California’s fifth largest city – became the first large city in the US to define and allow Tiny Houses in its local codes for use as a second dwelling to address affordable housing issues in the city, as well as providing housing for students and retirees.
A similar system has been successfully developed in Vancouver, Canada where ADUs have been legal for years and the city is now issuing building permits for 500 new units each year.
Ms O’Driscoll warned that any similar legislation in Ireland will need to be adapted to prevent developers from “taking advantage” of the relaxation of building codes to allow for Tiny Houses.
“There is always a strong case for building codes, but an appendix to these codes should be allowed for in one-off, individual and community homes where the habitant wishes to build to a smaller footprint, due to circumstance or desire,” she said.