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Millennials find tiny house an answer to Auckland's housing shortage

Amanda Morrissey-Brown and Cam Watson have elected to downsize in order to buy their first home.

An Auckland couple think they might have found an answer to Auckland's housing crisis - "downsize, considerably".

Amanda Morrissey-Brown, 25, and her partner Cam Watson, 26, each finished six years of university last year.

Hamstrung by combined student loan debts of more than $100,000, the pair said they were in no position to apply for a mortgage, and decided to explore alternative ways to try and break into the housing market.

They began looking into "tiny houses", a property movement Morrissey-Brown said first caught their eye on a British TV show. 

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Tiny houses are in essence exactly that, self-contained homes between 10sqm to 35sqm. 

Eventually they found Whangarei company Love Shack - a relatively young, small business that specialised in pint sized homes, Morrissey-Brown said.

Love Shack founder Marcel Syron.

"We were sold immediately," Morrissey-Brown said.

"To finance the tiny house we have had to take a considerably smaller loan from the bank, compared what we would get if we bought a house, which we can comfortably pay off over the next five years at roughly the same price that we would be paying if we were renting," she said.

"This way, we are putting our money towards an asset that we will eventually own and that is manageable to pay off. It also gives us the freedom that if our situation changes, to take the house with us."

The couple, currently living in Onehunga, placed an order for their 19sqm home, costing $100,00, earlier this year.

They are now in the process of trying to lease some land to "pop it on top of" before the build is completed in March.

Apart from the financial benefits, the couple were also sold on the lifestyle change. 

"We really love the idea of downsizing our lives and focusing more on the experiences in life rather than the objects and possessions we have around us," she said.

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The tiny houses come on wheels and are transportable to nearly anywhere in New Zealand.

The shift to minimalist living was one of the major selling points for most of Love Shack's clients, founder Marcel Syron said.

A builder with more than 20 years experience, Syron founded his tiny house building company in June last year.

Love Shack had since built and sold three tiny houses with another three on the way - including Morrissey-Brown's. 

"At a government level, I feel like they're missing a trick. This might not be the silver bullet, but it is certainly one answer to the housing problem," Syron said. 

Homes.co.nz head of marketing Jeremy O'Hanlon said that while high density housing was a solution, data showed people simply were not ready to downsize just yet.

​"Growth in house sizes over the last three decades suggests that smaller houses aren't what most developers, and buyers are focused on," O'Hanlon said.

Love Shack is based in Whangarei.

In Auckland houses built before 1990 were on average 124sqm. Since 2010 the average house was 222sqm. A 79 per cent increase, O'Hanlon said.

"Tiny houses have a growing movement of interest, and offer smart ways to make use of limited space, but I don't see it being a solution for any mass percentage of the population. Perhaps we can all learn a little about how much stuff is really needed from those in the tiny house movement."

Morrissey-Brown said they hoped to lease somewhere in Auckland for three to five years before buying their own chunk of land.

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