Tiny houses offer big potential in neighborhoods like Garfield
Tiny houses could play a big role in rebuilding Garfield by filling some of the neighborhood's hundreds of vacant lots and boosting homeownership in a more affordable way, officials say.
Downtown nonprofit cityLAB intends to build a 210-square-foot home on a small parcel between two-story homes on North Atlantic Avenue, a couple of blocks from bustling Penn Avenue. Leaders of the group hope more will follow.
“There's no such thing as a small building project,” said Chad Chalmers, an architect with Sewickley-based Wildman Chalmers Design LLC who is working on the Garfield project, noting that construction of a tiny house must go through the same steps as a traditional one — in some cases, more requirements.
An added step for Garfield's tiny house could be to seek a variance to a section of Pittsburgh's building code that requires any newly constructed home to have an off-street parking space. In this case, the 180-square-foot space would be nearly as large as the home and eat up one-fifth of the property.
Tiny houses — newly constructed homes of up to 900 square feet — are gaining a lot of attention.
Dozens of architectural firms across the country specialize in designing such homes, and numerous books and documentaries address the topic. A&E's FYI Network begins airing a show, “Tiny House Nation,” on Wednesday.
Tiny homes serve as a countertrend to Americans' growing appetite for bigger homes. According to census data, the average size of a newly constructed home rose from 1,660 square feet in 1973 to 2,521 square feet in 2007. After a three-year dip that coincided with the Great Recession, average home sizes rose in each of the past three years — to an all-time high of 2,598 square feet last year.
Only 1 percent of home buyers purchase a home of 1,000 square feet or less, according to the National Association of Realtors.
CityLAB and Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. began studying tiny house options late last year.
“We wanted to come up with a plan that dealt with housing and how we could create more homeownership opportunities and do it in an affordable way. This is one path to doing that,” said Richard Swartz, executive director of Bloomfield-Garfield Corp.
About 3,700 people live in Garfield, down from more than 11,000 in the mid-1900s. The neighborhood has more than 300 vacant parcels of land. Just 47 percent of the neighborhood's housing units are owner-occupied, a rate that lags behind the city (52 percent), state (70 percent) and nation (65 percent), 2010 census data show.
“Tiny houses could fill the holes more quickly than conventional houses because they will be more affordable to build, purchase and maintain,” said Eve Picker, president and CEO of cityLAB.
The model of tiny house chosen by cityLAB is called a Minim House, designed by Foundry Architects and Brian Levy. It is 10 feet, 8 inches by 22 feet and has many multi-purpose features, including a window shade that doubles as a video production screen. Picker said a half-dozen people have said they want to buy the home.
Picker hopes to begin construction this fall and anticipates project costs will wind up “well under $100,000.”
Tom Fontaine is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Animal activists targeting Vick at Steelers preseason game
- Killings of police officers leave departments on edge
- Pittsburgh councilwoman introduces pair of bills to protect animals
- Food assistance rises in Western Pa. despite drop in jobless rate
- Pope Francis calls for abortion mercy
- Judge allows conspiracy lawsuit against UPMC, Highmark to proceed
- Mt. Lebanon commissioners to consider deer management plan on Sept. 8
- Vote on partnership between Wilkinsburg, Pittsburgh Public School possible in October
- Teen caught after stolen car crashes in Homewood
- Man critical after being shot in Pittsburgh’s Knoxville neighborhood
- 3 from Allegheny County charged with Medicaid fraud