Honestly, I wasn’t going to journal anymore.
Lockdown hit, I moved into my uncle’s spare room in Camberwell (London) and spent over year running from one elderly family’s member’s house to another with meds and groceries. Boilers would suddenly break, fridges would conk out, passports needed renewing and someone (me) had to shuttle them to and from their endless doctor’s appointments.
I was so stressed and exhausted that I pushed tiny living to the furthest, most cobwebby corner of my brain. Then, finally, a break for the wicked: an old boss popped up with a full-time job offer.
It took some convincing to leave my free-wheeling life as a freelancer, but the thought of saving enough ££ to get my own home pushed me to accept it. So, after six full years of being my own (horrible) boss, I now have an actual work schedule and stable income. Feels odd.
But that wasn’t all, after a year cooped up in a windowless room and hearing unspeakable bodily noises through the paper thin walls. I used my first paycheck to rent my own space in a much greener, quieter side of London. Lockdowns were over, my oldies were medically stable, and it just seemed like time for me to go. (Plus, my soul was wilting more by the day.)
It has now been three months since the move, and after looking at some ridiculously expensive apartments for sale (did someone say £465,000 for a matchbox of an apartment?), the thought of getting a tiny house smugly strutted its way to the front of my mind once again.
Ah yes, I remember you.
So, I’m officially back at it. Also back on my bullshit, so expect more of my usual idiocy.
To restart my tiny venture, I logged back into the Tiny Housing Community Slack Channel to spark a hearty conversation with some optimistic chatter.
Shockingly, I’ve gotten no response.
Right, let’s switch tactics. I revisited Slack to give Leanne (the community manager) a good poke and ask about the grand plan to build ‘England’s first tiny home village’. This is the response I got.
‘We more than likely won’t be able to arrange a tiny house village for quite some time. To do this, we’ve learned you need a lot of friends in the government and a lot of rich friends to invest in the project, lots of things we currently don’t have’.
An honest, yet displeasing update.
But, she did say that they had ‘created 6 off-grid homes allowing those individuals to live a debt free life away from mortgages and expensive bills!’
Well, it looks like the tiny community isn’t happening for a good while. I’m back to either doing it myself or finding a very patient builder. If you’ve been following this series at all, you’ll know very well that I am deeply incompetent at doing things on my own. So I’m thinking a builder would be my best way forward.
Considering it’s been over a year since my first entry, I did a new search to see if any other tiny builders had popped up.
The answer is no.
But I did find a couple of eco builders I hadn’t come across before.
Ecovert passive house
This company is all about designing and building ‘ultra-low energy Passivhaus homes’.
I know what you’re thinking, what the heck is a Passivhaus home?
In short, a passive house is an energy-efficient construction that follows specific principles (designed by the Passivhaus Institute in Germany, hence the name) using ultra-precise architecture, fancy tech and materials that make your house an eco dream. From the right size and window location to a special ventilation system that keeps your home not too hot or cold.
Sounds expensive, doesn’t it? Well, I emailed them to find out. This was their response:
‘A guide estimate to undertake a new build Passivhaus would be approx. £1800-£2200 per sqm depending on complications. This does not include the purchase of land, or any finishings such as floorings, internal doors, kitchens, bathrooms etc.
Our advice would be to start with securing the services of an architect and land buying agent.’
Welp, there ya go. Probably not affordable, but good to know about.
If you’re curious about their process, check them out here.
Ecofurb — Low carbon house service
This isn’t a builder, per say. It’s more for those lucky folks who already have a house, but just want it to be more sustainable. Ecofurb takes care of the whole renovation. This can be anything from full-on solar panels and upgraded insulation to a better boiler and LED lights.
Is it expensive, you ask? Oh, allow me.
They charge £400 for a personalised “Ecofurb Plan”, which is basically a quote with a potential layout for your new snazzy low-emission home. If you want building specs that you can hand over to contractors, you’ll need between £500 and £1,200. Naturally, the bigger your house, the higher the price.
Mind you, you’ll also need more than a few thousand quid to actually pay for the work.
If this sounds remotely interesting to you, it’s a good idea to nosey their case studies.
You know what I just realised? I never shared what I learnt about getting land— mainly the confusing legal stuff and some very handy tips I swiped from tiny house discussion threads.
So, I dove back into my archives. Here’s the skinny.
As I mentioned in an earlier entry, you have a few good options to search for land, like:
- UKLandAndFarms: heinous website. Good place to find farmland
- PlotFinder: take a wild guess at what they do
- GumTree: sells just about everything. Avoid the serial killer bait
- Facebook groups (landowners/farmers): like this one and this one
- Zoopla: has a delightfully snazzy name. Also has all sorts of properties
- Rightmove: I found my current apt here. I strongly recommend setting alerts for properties that match your search filters
These will usually get you on your way. As for tips, Dane from Tiny Housing Co.—who is the type of person to use 100% of their brain—dropped these two nuggets of wisdom in the Slack channel.
- If it’s land to lease: farmers are your best bet. They can tuck your home away and use them as ‘agricultural’ buildings.
- If it’s land to purchase: you’re better off getting something that has been used for equestrian purposes. It’s been taken out of the ‘farming output’ for that area, so you’ll find it easier to get planning permission for your tiny house. Going a step further, saying that you’ll plant trees, sheltering the view from the road, adding composting toilet and solar for eco-friendly living, will give your application a nice boost.
Oh Dane, you wise and spicy guacamole.
He also gave this promising stat:
‘75% of applications are approved, and a further 40% are approved after putting the application in again if you disagree with the outcome.
However, heed this warning: stay away from Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), floodplain risk zones, and greenbelt. If you decide to go ahead anyway, then I greatly admire your commitment to being unsuccessful. (No, really, enjoy your terrible decision.)
Moving on, someone in the Slack channel mentioned that the ‘park home’ route is the quickest way to get a roof over their head. (That means a tiny home on wheels.) To which Dane chimed in with his own tragic story of paying £300 for a ‘British Standards Document’, only to learn that a tiny home with a loft doesn’t classify as a park home. To qualify, your tiny home bedrooms need at least 2m+ ceiling height. (And voila: you just saved £300.)
Lastly, fun fact: you can’t have a tiny house community without paying for roads as part of the development. ‘Health and safety reasons’, they claim. Although it would certainly be reassuring to know that an ambulance can reach you, rather than the local squirrel eventually discovering you lying face down in a puddle of cold tea.
It has come to my attention that a rather unfortunate cousin has recently gone through a messy divorce and, in his rush to find housing, he spent around £30,000 on a compact home. It’s in a green area, by a river, surrounded by a handful of other little homes.
He detonates whenever someone calls his new pad ‘a caravan’ and insists it’s an actual house. Everyone shares electricity and there’s a main office where everyone gets their post delivered.
Now I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like a tiny house village.
My cousin is a wart of a human and sane conversation isn’t his forte, but I shall attempt to gather information and find out his location. All I know is that it’s somewhere around Stoke-on-Trent.
I will report back with details.
I HAVE ZE DETAILS.
It’s called River Dane Park and it’s in Congleton, Cheshire.
Also, it’s less of a tiny home village and more like a holiday park. Here’s a pic I swiped from Google Maps.
They look like little container houses, of sorts. Apparently they’re ‘holiday homes’, so not sure how that works legal-wise for people living in there permanently. The website is very swanky and the target audience seems to be rich old folks. My cousin is none of those things, but okay.
At this point I wondered if Leanne from Tiny Housing Co. knew of this place, and how they managed to get all the planning and building permissions. So I asked her, and she had never heard of the place.
Coincidentally, the Tiny workshop is near Stratford-upon-Avon. So apparently they’re more or less nearby and just had never come across it. She said they’ll investigate. Maybe they can get some tips on how to wriggle past all the government roadblocks.
I did consider finally going up to see the workshop in person, but according to Leanne, it’s virtually impossible to reach without a car. I can’t even walk straight let alone drive, so I guess that idea’s off the table.
Leanne is such a good egg. She went and did a quick tour of their Nomad tiny house for me!
I asked her if I could share, and she said yes, so here it is:
I particularly love the loft hidey-hole and the bathroom looks surprisingly good. Leanne said she’ll get me a sneak peek of a Natura build in a few weeks, so I’ll post that for you to see as well.
After much Googling, all this tiny house hoo-ha is really starting to feel like hiking in flip flops. Why oh why can’t I simply find an absurdly wealthy and handsome man with hilariously low standards who already lives in a sustainable house?
That’s not asking for much, is it?
Then my peasant reality hits and I distract myself by going on Twitter, only to find things like this:
…Oh, that’s so…
Fine. I’ll keep buzzing along — like a bewildered and directionless bumblebee.
Well heck, the month is done already??
I realise there hasn’t been much progress, so I think I’ll tack on any February entries onto this one until it looks meaty enough. That said, I’ll still publish it now as is, because it’s been a whole ass year and I already feel guilty enough.
Off you go, dearest draft, and briefly delight some eyes.
I’ll be back with the good stuff. Promise.
I’M BACK. Not with the good stuff. But stuff.
So, not sure any of you remember OPhouse, that tiny housing project in York that I signed up for in Part 2 of this wretched series and got no response. Well, I signed up again last month and guess what??
Still no response.
But, today I got an email from them with something a little different.
Yes, that is indeed me.
I’m Cath, I have just started working on OpHouse’s ‘Morrell House’ co-op project. I’m contacting everyone on the OpHouse mailing list because I’d like to get to know as many of you as possible and to tell you how the project is developing and how you can get involved.
As many of you know, OpHouse are working with YorSpace CLT and City of York Council to turn an ex-care home (Morrell House in Burton Green, Clifton) into a cooperatively-housed community of about 17 flats with shared spaces and perhaps a more public community space.
I did not know this at all. Also, where in the heck is Burton Green??
Ah, here it is on GoogleMaps. Of course it’s absolutely fuck-all away.
Anyway, please continue, Cath.
We want to develop a group of people interested in living in this kind of ‘co-housing’ — where residents are a community who collectively manage their property. Co-housing means that residents have their own living spaces, and they have access to shared facilities.
Sounds cosy! And here’s a delightful little pic they attached to the email.
I’m particularly a fan of the woman on the right with half blue hair happily watching everyone else break their backs.
Cath ended the email saying her job is to meet people who are ‘interested in the project, what it means to be involved, and how they can shape the project as it develops’. They’ll also be holding a bunch of workshops to hash out the design and communal living spaces.
Now, as much as I’d like to join a workshop and nosey around the area in person, York is…not near South London. Not even close. Although if any of you rainbow-infused sunflower seeds feel like going or want to know more, you can fill in this form.
Frankly, I’m not particularly interested in moving from my current flat into yet another flat except miles up north. But, as usual, I shall sail this tedious shitstorm on your noble behalves and schedule a call with her to find out more.
Let’s be nosey, shall we?
You know what radiates motivation with a sprinkle of depression?
The sad part is, as we’ve already seen, people have built entire tiny homes with $20k.
In other news, Cathy from the Morrell project got back to me about the call. Meeting with her next week, bright and early.
Okay fine, it’s actually at 11 am. But I’m usually sleeping like a dead animal before 10 am, so 11 still seems mighty early to me. Anyhoo, I’ll be back with the scoop.
Currently in the midst of the strongest storm the UK has seen in 30 years. And, as I’m sipping on my lukewarm tea (because I forgot I had made it) and staring at all the bits of rubbish flapping around — I have to wonder if a tiny house on wheels would survive such winds.
I mean, with the way climate change is going, these storms will likely become even stronger and more frequent. Can you imagine being knocked around in your tiny home like a rat in a tin can?
Anyway, I’m off to watch the livestream of wobbly planes landing at Heathrow like everyone else in this country.
You know when you think of something and then Instagram shows you an ad for it 0.45 seconds later? Yeah, that happened.
There I was, wistfully thinking of whether I’d ever find a tree-loving, eco-home building ‘tribe’ who I could create a community with somewhere in the English wilderness. And, voila, an ad for something called HumansApp with big bold letters saying, ‘FIND YOUR TRIBE’.
Bit on the nose. But okay, I’ll bite.
I tapped on the ad and checked the App Store reviews. Then I checked the website.
Humans I’ll like, you say?
It also says, pretty clearly:
Rad. I’ll give it a shot. Maybe I’ll find some tiny house enthusiasts on there.
I signed up, typed a (rather mediocre) bio, and started swiping through the topics and questions. Not much in terms of housing, but it seems like a new app with plenty of forestry experts and zero-waste kinda folk, so I’ll give it a chance.
Plus, I’ve been on it for a whole two hours now, and my DMs have yet to fill up with middle-aged men asking if I’m prime for marriage. Looks like they’re holding up their ‘no dating’ promise.
Anyway, here’s my incredibly profound profile.
If chatting to awkward humans about eco-living is also your jam, feel free to join me there (under the tag #SustainableHouse). Perhaps we can start a cult.
Right, I had the call with Cath from the Morrell House project, and here’s what you need to know.
First off, I poked about the OpHouse project since I hadn’t heard a thing back from them. Turns out they’re outrageously overwhelmed with applications. They have 17 homes, and over 140 applications all blinking and flashing impatiently. So that’s the reason behind that hold up.
Back to the Morrell House, the original idea was to demolish the Morrell care home and use the land to build tiny homes. But the York council said, ‘Here’s an idea, how about…you don’t’.
So they went to plan B, which is to revamp the care home building and turn them into affordable flats instead. The details are still in the air, but they know they want it to run like a housing cooperative where the tenants both live and manage the area. They’re even in charge of setting their own rent (and no, you can’t set it to £5/month. I asked).
I asked if this was a sustainable build that would run on renewables, and she said the building is already connected to main power and water lines so it wouldn’t be a priority to switch over. The flats themselves will be 1–2 bedrooms, and the average resident can invest anywhere from £100 to £150,000 in the project. She did note that they need to include locals to make it all happen, so if it’s between you and someone from York, just order that triple-chocolate comfort cake for yourself because you’re not getting the flat.
Like I said before, there are plenty of workshops lined up to settle on the how and what and why of all this, but Cath says it’ll be a year or so before any of the flats are ready to move into. Of course, I asked if they’re planning on hosting any of these workshops online so those who can’t drive or spend £100+ on trains can attend. She said they’ll ‘consider it’, which basically means, ‘nope, ya snooze ya lose’.
So, another dead end—for me, at least. I think my best bet is to find a community and go from there, which has been so easy for me so far.
I think Cathy could feel my heavy cloud of resignation over the call because she quickly piped with a few organisations that I should check out.
Community Land Trust (CLT) Network: This org ‘gives ordinary people the means to steward land for local wellbeing, developing and manage homes’. You do have to pay to become a member, with the first year lowered to £75 for start-ups and then £150 after that. Might be worth poking around to check what communities are already bouncing around.
Community-Led Housing: This is essentially a group of regular folk who know how to build homes and will rally together to do just that. Never know when these handy people might come in…uh…handy.
Diggers and Dreamers: Now here’s an interesting one. They have communities for everything from ‘spiritual getaways’ to ‘off-grid living’. These people are all about communal living in all its forms, and as their website hilariously points out, ‘it’s not all hippy crash pads where nobody does the washing up’.
Radical Routes: An eye-sore of a website, but a useful one. It’s made of housing co-ops (with a max of 17 members in each one) that get together every so often to discuss lands and plans. You do have to be an actual co-op to join as a member though, so not really an option for lone hobbits like myself looking to nosey what’s on the housing menu.
Hm, I’ll dig into these a bit more and hopefully one of them will dangle the next vine I can swing on.
My attempts to spark friendly conversation on this heckin’ app are underlining (in bold red pen) why I’m not built for dating apps.
Fine, maybe not my best intro. But did it tickle his curiosity and compel him to respond?
On a brighter note, a folksy spiritual kind of woman asked me what my favourite tree is, so I said the Eucalyptus Deglupta (or more easily known as the Rainbow Tree). It’s pretty rad. Look!
I’ve definitely found a fair share of podcast bros and ‘empaths’ on here, but still no unsolicited dating requests, so I’ll keep the app on my phone for a while longer. I have gotten a few responses about tiny homes, mostly youths saying they’ve heard of someone building one or they’re interested in the topic. Aha.
But anyway, back to sobbing over my non-existent tiny house.
Actually, scratch that. This week I’m looking for land or homes for sale. I want to get this mofo started.
I did a quick search to see what’s for sale in England, and found a website called Green Moves that specialises in eco builds. So I (naively) looked up eco homes for sale near London and got this—the sole result:
Amazing! What a steal! Only £900,000!
Separate question: why do all these eco websites look like they were stitched together using gum and paperclips in the early 2000s??
I went back to the GreenMoves website and signed up for an alert for any new homes that get posted. Then, in the corner of the website I noticed who was sponsoring them, so I Googled them too.
One of the sponsors is Ecology Building Society. Their whole deal is they’re, ‘dedicated to building a greener society by providing mortgages for properties and projects that respect the environment and support sustainable communities.’
Basically, if you want to fund an eco-build, talk to them first before heading to your bank.
Their other sponsor is The NatureSave Trust, which funds all sorts of sustainable projects, like tree planting and bee protecting. They also do home insurance if you have a sustainable home, so that’s worth knowing about.
Thought this would be an interesting tidbit for you, so there you go.
Oh look! A new eco property just got added to GreenMoves.
It’s a 4-bedroom, near Dover (so fuck all away from me) and all for £650,000.
Any takers? No?
Yeah, me neither.
Just seem to be hitting dead-ends this month, eh? Think I need to step back for a second and figure out which direction I actually want to go in rather than keep spinning in a circle. (Don’t worry, I won’t disappear for a year—again.)
See? Told you I’d be back within a year.
So, remember when I said my first step should be to find a like-minded community? Well, I’ve been perusing Diggers and Dreamers since they have a noticeboard where people can put up ‘ads’.
And let me tell you, you have to see some of these.
Some are regular, innocent calls for fellow eco-folk looking to pool money and purchase a few acres of land. Then you have asks like this:
‘I am forming an Intentional Community outside the System, exclusively for Christian people; unvaccinated and who are aware of the evils of the New World Order.’
And this…rather interesting one.
Unvaxxed man seeks like-minded people to live with. Sadly, all of my relatives, and all but two of my friends, have been triple jabbed, so I am expecting to lose most of them over the next couple of years, unless some miraculous new medical technology arrives in time to save them, which I doubt will happen.
Alrighty, there’s a community for everyone, I suppose.
Then there’s a guy who starts his ad with ‘Hello fellow sovereign being,’ and just goes downhill from there. He ends it by saying he doesn’t believe in school or taxes. Must be nice.
Was this useful at all? No.
Was it entertaining in a somewhat concerning way, oh, certainly.
So what’s my next move, you ask? Honestly, I have no idea.