By Peter Bissett, director: SA Timber Homes

A solution to cater to all income groups, from the affluent to addressing the housing shortages we see in South Africa.

Tiny homes can cater to any income level

Tiny homes can cater to any income level

A tiny home’s definition will vary depending on who you speak to. Essentially, it is a fully-kitted home on a small scale, and is usually also the primary dwelling unit. The size of a tiny home would normally be less than 50m², and a maximum of 60m². They can be static or mobile, and up to two levels. For many South Africans, a tiny home could have completely different definitions. WHO LIVES IN, OR BUYS A TINY HOME? This is typically the perfect solution for young professional couples, who do not want to be tied down with a huge mortgage. Also, people (normally the younger generation) who are able to work from anywhere and like the freedom a tiny home could offer.

This is also a popular option for retired couples, or couples who are ‘empty-nesters’. People who are concerned about the environment are also a key target market – because small homes consume far less energy and are often classed as off-the-grid units.


  • Your boundaries become visible and therefore more manageable.
  • A tiny home is movable which gives a sense of freedom.
  • Living in a tiny home allows you to de-clutter your life. You don’t have endless storage places full of ‘junk’. Clutter is proven to negatively impact thought patterns and selfesteem.
  • Increased communication becomes possible because you cannot hide yourself on the other side of the house.
  • The small space forces you out to be more active – theatre, movies, walks, cycling.
  • Studies have also shown that people who live specifically in timber homes, are calmer and happier than when they live in homes of other types of construction materials.


A tiny home could cater to an affluent market and also for the poor. As with any construction, the level of finance allows you access to more, or less, impressive finishings. As a case study for the local market, we look at some of the factors related to tiny homes.

How could municipal approval be considered?

  • Units are easily self-sufficient for power requirements.
  • Possibility of on-board water and sewerage management systems.
  • Addressing ‘densification’ of certain areas in the cities.
  • Cater as a workable solution for emergency housing.
  • Lower cost units can provide quick solutions to re-house homeless families.
  • Units can alleviate many issues faced by government in getting new developments off the ground.
  • Certain units can be mobile to ‘bypass’ certain regulations.

How could banks look at tiny homes?

  • Tiny Homes could be deemed to be permanent enough for mortgages to be granted, or they could be treated as a vehicle, or something in between.
  • In some ways, the banks would be at an advantage as they would be able to re-possess the home and move it to a place of safety and an area where it could be easier to re-sell.


  • Insurance should be no different to standard homeowner’s policies, provided the home complies with the building regulations.
  • Separate insurances can apply for when on the road or moving the unit’s location.

Vehicle licensing authority factors

  • Trailers can only be made by registered trailer
  • Dimensions:
    • max height 4.3m
    • max width 2.6m
    • max trailer length 12m
  • Building onto skids is another solution as no roadworthy issues are then applicable.
  • No yearly licence fees are required.
  • Not classified as a vehicle by insurance companies.

Building units in compliance with regulations and structural integrity

  • Units must be built to the same specs as conventional timber frame homes.
  • Bracing should be regarded as critical.
  • Insulation should be included.
  • If movable, the chassis must be rigid enough to prevent bending while being moved.
  • Units can be constructed by timber frame or cross laminated timber (CLT) methods.

Handling sewerage disposal

  • Sewerage could be managed in a number of ways:
    • Conventionally (tied into the municipal sewage system).
    • Waterborne sewerage (pit latrines or septic tanks).
    • Composting toilets (a type of dry toilet that treats waste by the biological process of composting).
    • Chemical or ‘porta potty’ type toilets.
    • Small bio reactor treatment plant.


Research has shown a huge interest in this product for the local market as it can contribute towards the densification of parts of our cities, which is a big need currently. The trends locally and
internationally are towards living naturally and off grid further strengthening its case. Individuals also want freedom and, the ability to explore and travel. Retirement can also become exciting with the ability to relocate as and when needed. All of these factors indicate a strong demand for this type of home in South Africa. An example of a tiny home bathroom with composting toilet.


  • Tiny homes provide a quick and effective solution for the housing backlog.
  • Units can be moved to wherever they need to be.
  • They can be used for temporary or emergency housing solutions.
  • Quality can be controlled by builders.
  • Electrical and waste services can be installed prior to site delivery by registered professionals. ‑