Increasingly we hear reports about the difficulties many people have in finding affordable housing. A decade ago the housing market collapsed under the pressures of crashing house prices.
And an environment where potential homeowners were being granted mortgages that that they couldn’t sustain. People were losing their homes as they went underwater on their mortgages, according to NPR.
The problem now is different. Today, housing prices are on the rebound, and many potential buyers find themselves priced out of the market. It’s not just an issue in places where real estate costs have historically been high, either.
This problem is showing up in mid-sized cities across the country, where demand outstrips supply, leaving too many potential buyers without options. Even the rental market is problematic, as rents soar, along with the associated fees of signing a lease, and wages aren’t growing at a pace to keep up with the market, according to Wired.
So, what’s a person to do? A lot of people in a lot of places are considering alternatives to the traditional options, which can include accessory dwelling units, like converted garages or guest houses, co-operative housing or co-living arrangements, and micro-housing.
Including tiny homes and apartments, made in an amazing variety of ways, and out of a huge array of materials, micro-housing is becoming an increasingly popular solution for city dwellers and others. Here are some of the ways people have been applying the micro-housing idea:
Most shipping containers are only used for their intended purpose for 10-15 years, according to Digital Trends, but are sound and useful for much longer than that. They estimate that there are millions of such containers all over the world that won’t be used for shipping again, and people around the world have been repurposing those containers as housing.
A shipping container is between 20 and 40 feet long, and is both fireproof and flood proof. They can be bought for less than $2,000 each, making them accessible even for would-be homeowners with very limited budgets, and can be used singly, or stacked in groups for more space.
Designed by a former Rolls-Royce engineer, the Conker is a sphere on little stilts. It can cost up from about $24,000 to $45,000 if you opt for all the add-ons such as a wet room, toilet, and kitchenette. It’s rather more expensive than some other options for micro-housing, but still less expensive than many traditional homes.
Having said that, there aren’t any extra costs associated with its installation, such as needing to pour a foundation for it to sit on. It is designed with a very efficient heat-retention system, making it a four-season dwelling, and its spherical shape sheds water and snow. It has about 100 sq. meters of floor space, and can harvest water and be fitted with solar panels on the exterior, the designer told Digital Trends.
Another thing that makes this living pod unique is its aesthetic. The Conker’s exterior is highly customizable, and the company offers a variety of finishes ranging from the sedate and low-key to the vivid and unusual.
According to Design Boom, the tricycle house is made of polypropylene folded in such a way that it can be opened up entirely to the outside, expanded out like an accordion, or folded flat for moving it around. It can also be connected to other such houses, increasing space even more.
The entire house is mounted on a large tricycle and isn’t substantially heavier than a regular bike trailer. This Chinese experiment in alternative housing allows sun or lamplight to come in through its translucent plastic for lighting, and is entirely “man-powered” and off-grid.
The homes include sinks, stoves, bathtubs, and water tanks. The furniture has been designed to reconfigure from a bed to a bench and countertop or a dining table. The sink, stove, and tub collapse into the front wall of the home when it’s folded up. The same group that designed the house also designed a tricycle garden, with enough depth and space that you could plant not just grass, but also trees or vegetables.
According to Tiny Life, a tiny house has an average square footage between 100 and 400 feet. Some people subscribe to the idea of tiny houses more for reasons of downsizing than cost.
You can get some truly beautiful and well-appointed tiny homes from places like Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, that cost nearly as much as a regular home might, depending on where you live. Many of the people looking at alternative housing don’t have that sort of money to spend, though, and for them, there are plenty of websites offering inspiration and instruction on how to build their own, such as tree house..
No matter how you slice it, struggles to obtain affordable, comfortable, and convenient housing are ongoing for many people. As time goes on, we’ll be seeing more and more homes like these popping up all over the world.