In May, the Herald Sun ran a piece on David Bell’s delightful little tiny house in Birchip, Victoria. It’s one of the most prominent tiny houses in Australia I would say, having received quite a bit of media coverage. After reading an article about David ages ago (before the Herald Sun piece) I got in touch with him. We shared each others stories and I picked his brain for any advice he had for building a tiny house in Australia. Pleasant chap.
Anyways, the reason I write this post is to draw attention to a comment on the above article. The commenter, Susan, says “If he paid $12,500 for that he was ripped off. And as a previous poster said – good luck getting council approval. Not to mention that house would not comply with bushfire regulations – any property in a rural area needs to be assessed for that. But if it makes him happy, good for him.” I want to unpack this comment a little. It’s full of assumptions and error.
$12,500 is a rip off. David’s tiny house wasn’t built solely by himself, I believe. So a good portion of this figure would have gone in labour. I believe the materials David used are all new – those costs quickly add up, a couple of hundred dollars per window, times 3 or 4… You get the picture. It is a nicely finished little house. It was built to spec – in my discussions with David he informed me that he was granted a Certificate of Occupancy by council. Building some McMansion in an outer suburb, in my book, is more of a rip off.
[G]ood luck getting council approval. Well he did. He had it independently inspected by a building surveyor and was granted a Certificate of Occupancy.
[The] house would not comply with bushfire regulations. This is a doozy. Why wouldn’t this house comply with bushfire regulation? (1) The BAL (Bushfire Activity Level) this house is subject to is probably very low, BAL12.5 tops, maybe even a BAL-LOW – it’s in the township, not exactly in the middle of a forest; (2) The cladding of this house is suitable for something at the high-end of the spectrum – I am considering using Colourbond or Zincalume to clad my place and I am faced with around a BAL-19; (3) If it got through council then the BMO (Bushfire Management Overlay) has presumably been addressed.
I’m glad the comment was signed off with “But if it makes him happy, good for him”. I have heard that line many times myself, and appreciate it for the condescending manner in which it is usually delivered. Ah well. David went the right way about building his house and I applaud the council for allowing him to do it. I told my future council (fingers crossed) that I intend to build a tiny house of around 21sq/m. They didn’t flinch. “Great. I’m really excited to see it” was the response.
Update: I’d like to thank Bele for bringing a follow up article, by the Herald, to my attention. Turns out their publicity did David more bad than good. Council approached him with a heap of non-compliances. I sillily presumed that if he had the building approved then he would have addressed every requirement. Seems he was required to connect to the mains (I really don’t understand why this is a rule for houses in townships?) and install things like a sink, food prep area, shower (I thought he had a small outdoor bathroom) and so on. I couldn’t find any follow up stories online about the outcome of David’s plight. In the article, Buloke Shire Council is quoted as saying that they don’t intend to evict him, they haven’t the power, but they wish to help him meet compliances. I have emailed David to see how he got on.