Home Sweet Alternative Home

With skyrocketing house prices an inescapable issue in big cities, many people in Australia are abroad are seeking alternative solutions.

Take the tiny house movement, for example. In the US, the rising popularity of tiny houses has inspired TV shows such as Tiny House Hunters – and interest in Australia is growing too.

A Griffith University study found that tiny houses appeal to a wide demographic. But they’re not just small versions of family homes. From modified shipping containers to exotic yurts, we consider the trend through five of the most affordable and sustainable alternative living options.

Tiny houses

Buying a home for less than $100k would be a dream come true – and “it’s the main reason people buy our tiny homes, to be able to live mortgage-free,” says Paul Hangan, co-founder of Tiny Homes Australia. Generally, a tiny house measures 37 square metres or less. It can be made from any material and many resemble small versions of big houses when kitted out. A huge advantage is portability, with many owners opting to place them on specifically designed trailers.

Earth-brick houses

The Earth Building Association of Australia estimates that one-third to one-half of the worlds population live in earth-brick houses. These houses can be made from different types of earth bricks, with some using rammed-earth walls. Studies have shown that rammed-earth walls hold up better than traditional clay-brick walls in earthquakes. Although some people might view the earth construction as primitive, there isn’t much aesthetic difference in the finished product. “And don’t worry about the rain,” says Sheree-Anna Ramada, who has lived in an earth-brick house for 30 years, “The bricks are really durable and won’t melt away.”

Shipping container homes

Houses made from shipping containers – but those containers have undergone some major modifications to become attractive modular homes. Designed to last the harsh conditions at sea, containers make strong and weather-resistant abodes. Since they are already enclosed spaces, house construction may take only a few days. Spacious and affordable, some suppliers can offer a two-bedroom container home from $56,000. They can also be stacked to add extra storey’s to your dwelling.


Co-housing communities support residents with similar values to live together for their mutual benefit. In most co-housing setups, residents have their own self-contained units but also share a communal space for shared activities. Some co-housing communities also adopt green approaches to living.


A yurt provides affordable and open-plan living. Measuring between 3 metres and 20 metres in diameter, a yurt’s circular shape allows plenty of room for a bed, lounge and even a fireplace. This traditional Mongolian dwelling also feels bigger due to its high, conical roof. Prefabricated steel and canvas units can be built in one day, with more basic yurts sold for around $7000.

While going small – and sometimes strange – isn’t the housing solution for everyone, downsizing into smaller homes is starting to become a real option. And just remember, a tiny house means only a tiny space to keep clean.