Smaller homes: simple yet smart

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Interest in smaller homes has grown over recent years.  For some this may include the extreme of ‘tiny homes’, or motorhomes.  The drive to consider a smaller home can be about treading lightly on the earth or ‘keeping things simple’.   For others the driver is financial as they can be an affordable solution, allowing people to get on the property ladder.  Smaller homes (or other types of small spaces) might also include sharing a site with one or more other dwellings.


In the light of the coronavirus crisis, smaller homes (and other spaces) are even more likely to be an option that can provide flexibility and resilience in uncertain times.  


During the early stages of the coronavirus lockdown, our Terra Nova team video meetings included discussion of how we were each faring in our bubbles.  This led to us becoming increasingly aware of how life was likely to change substantially for many people, with many wanting the security of having less debt and perhaps the option of greater resilience and self-sufficiency.  Some people might also benefit from having more space to easily work from home or distance learn, and others would want to be able to offer space for family or friends should the lockdown phase extend or return.


When built on a property that already has an existing ‘primary’ house, smaller homes (and other options for additional space) can offer flexibility by:

  • reducing costs and debt related to land purchase (as well as build and running costs)
  • providing additional, dedicated space for family members to work from home, or for children doing distance learning
  • offering accommodation for extended families to live closer together yet still have independence.


If the land is amenable, it can also be possible to achieve greater self-sufficiency and resilience by collecting drinking water, growing fruit and veges, raising chickens, etc.


And in the case of ‘tiny homes’, a home can be transportable, offering the ultimate in flexibility.


In the face of uncertainty such as the coronavirus crisis, and uncertain economic times that now exist and likely will for some years, smaller homes may prove to be a smart move for many.  Achieving the best overall outcome will involve: 

  • determining what ‘additional space’ option is best suited to the situation
  • designing the space and locating it on site to meet individual needs and in a way that streamlines consenting  
  • taking into account whole project costs including consenting, financial contributions, servicing costs as well as build and running costs 
  • allowing for future opportunities such as expansion of the space, or potential subdivision and on-sale  


When carefully considered, smaller homes (and other alternative small spaces) can not only be simple, but also smart.

Terra Nova Planning Services:
Many smaller homes will be considered ‘minor dwellings’ under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), and are permitted activities or may require resource consent. Under certain circumstances, even transportable tiny homes may be considered a minor dwelling. Other options for additional space can include home extensions, ‘accessory buildings’ such as sleep-outs and garden rooms, ‘worker accommodation’,
cabins etc. Some may require resource consent depending on a number of factors including size, location and services. In some locations, even caravans and motorhomes might need resource consent depending on what site services they rely on.


Our website includes RMA planning details on minor dwellings and other smaller space options. We are available to discuss your project and can collaborate with other specialists such as architects/designers (including ‘tiny home’ companies) and engineers to maximise the success of your project.

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