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How woman nabbed $190k home

Jamberoo tiny house of Cobby Koster
At the age of 68, former long-term renter Coby Koster now owns her small, but mighty home outright.

At the age of 68, former aged care worker Coby Koster now knows how to chop her own firewood with a chainsaw, clean a compostable toilet and “work the tools” to sustain her minimal and self-sufficient tiny house.

Just a year-and-a-half ago, Ms Koster was approaching retirement. The mum-of-two’s modest savings priced her out of the housing market, but solely relying on her pension would make continuing to rent financially precarious.

“I was never very clever with my money. Like so many people at my age, I only had a certain amount saved up,” she says.

That’s when a chance conversation with a lifeguard set her on the path to tiny home ownership.

Jamberoo tiny house of Cobby Koster
Coby Koster’s tiny house has a loft space, 2m deck and even a jacuzzi. Picture: Supplied
Jamberoo tiny house of Cobby Koster
Ms Koster chose to buy a tiny home with her pension, instead of continuing to rent. Picture: Supplied

With the help of her family, Ms Koster bought her one bedroom, 8.2m by 3m forever home for about $190,000.

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The sunny loft-style space is positioned on a friend’s acreage property on the outskirts of Jamberoo, on NSW’s south coast.

Coby Koster with her two adult sons
Coby Koster with her two adult sons. Picture: Supplied
Jamberoo tiny house of Cobby Koster
She’s learnt how to become self sufficient, learning to chop wood with a chainsaw at the age of 67. Picture: Supplied

Her bills are non-existent thanks to the home’s solar panels and water tank, and the home even comes with a spa on its 2m-long deck.

“I had to move every few years anyway, being a renter, and that’s allowed me to live quite minimal,” she says.

“I had a whole year for me to prepare and sell my big pieces of furniture but my space is really nice and changing all the time. Whenever I bring something in, I take something out.”

Jamberoo tiny house of Cobby Koster
Jamberoo tiny house of Cobby Koster
Jamberoo tiny house of Cobby Koster
Jamberoo tiny house of Cobby Koster

While Ms Koster is besotted with her lifestyle, housing alliance body Housing Now! is calling on the NSW government to ease planning regulations to allow tiny homes to be installed on normal residential blocks without the need for development approval.

Doing so could allow them to be placed in backyards and used as long-term rental properties, the group argues.

Tiny homes are currently not covered under any legislation, however they may fall under legislation dictating caravans which limits stays to two consecutive days, no more than 60 days a year.

Housing Now! Executive Director David Borger, who once oversaw the housing portfolio as a minister under NSW premiers Nathan Rees and Kristina Keneally, is leading the push.

“There’s a vast number of Sydney LGAs that would benefit from this change,” he says.

“By making it easier to introduce these smaller homes it opens the door for easier intergenerational living.

“It gives that young couple who want to save and buy a place, but not live under their parents roof a sense of independence.”

The organisation has identified 12 key areas its deemed most suitable for tiny homes, with Blacktown City Council, Camden Council, and Canterbury Bankstown City Council leading the list.

While he’s realistic to say it’s not the “silver bullet” for the housing crisis, he said it was a “solution that gives people a better opportunity to have a home”.

PLANNING MINISTER PRESSER
Housing Now! executive director David Borger said tiny homes gave ‘people a better opportunity to have a home’. Picture: NewsWire/ David Swift

About 123km south of Sydney, a regional council wants to be the first NSW local government to overturn state laws by implementing a two-year pilot program to allow people to construct tiny homes of residential land without approval.

Shellharbour City Council Mayor Chris Homer says it’s a low-cost, proactive solution that offers “tangible results you can get on the ground quick”.

Under the newly-released NSW housing targets, Shellharbour has been tasked to build 377,000 new homes by 2029

He says the tiny homes could also be rented out to help house people escaping domestic violence, essential workers, downsizers, and kippers - an acronym for “kids in parent’s pockets exhausting retirement savings”.

“The regular modern residential home can take two to three years to build, and people need to navigate the DA, finance and construction process but we needed solutions yesterday,” says Mr Homer.

“This is about a local government getting on the front foot with progressive initiatives to deal with the housing crisis.”

Shellharbour City Council Mayor Chris
Shellharbour City Council Mayor Chris Homer said relaxing planning laws could make it

While NSW Planning Minister Paul Scully acknowledges local council are trialling how tiny homes can be used as a “short-term solution to the housing crisis,” he appeared to dash further reform.

“Government has implemented some of the boldest planning reforms the State has seen in our Transport Oriented Developments and Low and Mid Rise Planning Reforms to make sure we see long term change and get people into homes for generations to come,” he said.

“The NSW government’s planning reforms have always prioritised greater diversity of housing for people in all stages of life, whether that be young people, families or downsizer.”

However, around the state, and Australia at large, the tiny home lifestyle is gaining ground with the builds also used as short-term holiday rentals.

Owner of south-coast based Havenwood Tiny Homes Rick Smith, 59, estimates he starts construction on a new home every four days. Most of his customers are owner-occupiers who plan on living in the quarters permanently.

The Jamberoo man can build a home in about four months from when a customer confirms their order.

The builds range from one to three bedrooms, and can be built with airconditioning and fire places, or designed with accessibility modifications for people with disabilities.

On average a standard 3m by 7.2m two-bedroom house costs about $139,000, while a three-bedroom home may cost between $165,000 to $177,000.

“Most of our clients earlier in the piece were divorcees and single mums, but recently we’re starting to pick up all the young couples,” he said.

“They’ll put them in the back of mum and dad’s backyards so they can save up and get out of their faces and have their own space.”