Developer Eve Picker in front of her tiny house in Garfield, which has a full basement unlike many other tiny houses.
CityLAB's tiny house in Garfield. The builders plan to install a metal railing on the front porch and stairs.
Developer Eve Picker stands in the unfinished living/sleeping room of the tiny house in Garfield. The kitchen is to the left.
Developer Eve Picker said a buyer could install a loft above built-in cabinetry at the far end or a Murphy bed that folds into the wall.
The kitchen will have birch butcher-block counters and IKEA stainless-steel appliances and cabinet doors.
The bathroom has a shower lined with glass tile and a 4-foot bath tub. On the right is a utility closet where the water heater will be installed.
Eve Picker in the living/sleeping room. In the upper left corner of the living/sleeping room is a Daikin heater and air-conditioner.
The tiny house is at the rear of a small lot on North Atlantic Avenue in Garfield. The fiber cement siding is by James Hardie.
The rear windows are set higher on the wall for privacy near where the bed will likely be placed.
Developer Eve Picker says CityLAB's tiny house will draw attention to Garfield, which is surrounded by neighborhoods that have seen much more development.
By Patricia Sheridan / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Tiny houses are big right now.
There are hundreds of blogs and websites devoted to them and the design website Houzz currently has 2,716 stories on the subject. Television shows such as “Tiny House Nation” and documentaries such as “Tiny: A Story About Living Small” have Americans dreaming of radically uncluttering their lives and living with less stuff and a lot less square footage.
Today you can tour Pittsburgh’s first tiny house. From 1 to 4 p.m., CityLAB offers tours of a one-story, nearly 350-square-foot house built at 223 N. Atlantic Ave. in Garfield, priced at $109,500.
Tiny house in Garfield
Tiny house in Garfield. (Video by Nate Guidry; 1/29/2016)
Pittsburgh's first tiny house
CityLAB builds Pittsburgh's first tiny house in Garfield. (Video courtesy of Uppercut Studios)
The major attraction of tiny houses is the idea of living a simpler life with fewer possessions. But affordability also is a draw. The low price tag of most tiny houses means financial freedom, at least from a mortgage, in places like California where housing costs are high.
Elaine Walker, co-founder of the American Tiny House Association, says a tiny house can be built for $20,000 if you build it yourself and use donated or recycled materials. Experts at tinyhousebuild.com say it can be done for as little as $10,000 if built off-site and transported to a lot. Ms. Walker’s 120-square-foot home in Palmetto, Fla., is portable.
“I have a beautifully crafted home that’s fully paid for and that I can take with me if I need to relocate,” she says.
Not everyone is content with such a no-frills tiny house. One done by a luxury builder can rise to $80,000, Ms. Walker says. “On average, many are around $45,000 but the trend has been to make them both bigger and more expensive.”
So why does Pittsburgh’s first tiny house cost more than twice the average? The Garfield house actually cost much more to build — $191,000 — than its asking price, according to Eve Picker, the architect and urban planner from Australia who spearheaded the project.
Ms. Picker, who has been rehabbing old buildings in Pittsburgh since the early 1990s, is CEO of CityLAB and leads no wall productions and we do property management inc.
Half of the construction cost went toward remediation of the land, which included removing an old foundation, digging a basement and excavation for a sewer line, said Ben Schulman, communications director of Small Change, a real estate equity crowd funding platform.
The two-year project was also complicated by delays in getting city permits and variances for smaller setbacks and other requirements, Mr. Schulman says.
The house, which was still being finished last week, sits on a 1,050-square-foot lot between two much older, three-story houses near the corner of North Atlantic Avenue and Broad Street. Unlike its vinyl-sided neighbors, it’s covered in lavender fiber cement siding and set back farther from the sidewalk.
Heather Wildman and Chad Chalmers of Wildman Chalmers Design worked with Ms. Picker on its design, which includes one sleeping/living room measuring about 24 by 8 feet, a nearly 8- by 8-foot kitchen and a 7- by- 4-foot bathroom with a 2½ -foot deep utility closet running its length. The ceilings range from 8 to 9 feet.
Many of the house’s components are also tiny: a 4-foot tub, a counter-height refrigerator and a combination washer/dryer in the corner of the kitchen. The kitchen range, sink and dishwasher, however, are standard size. The unheated basement offers 350 more square feet of storage space.
The sleeping/living room has a long desk beneath a front picture window but no other furniture. Ms. Picker said the buyer could choose a folding Murphy bed or loft bed for the blank wall at the far end.
The house’s price is almost identical to the median house price in Garfield last year, $110,000. So why did Ms. Picker choose this neighborhood?
“To rebrand Garfield, to turn eyes onto it and to build something affordable in a market where affordable housing is very, very difficult to build,” Ms. Picker said.
She said she hopes that Garfield, which is sandwiched between two urban redevelopment success stories, East Liberty and Lawrenceville, will be the next neighborhood to experience a rebirth.
But the house’s price is raising some eyebrows. Maureen Broge, 58, of Lawrenceville stopped by Thursday to inquire about the price. “That’s kinda steep,” she said. Another woman driving by was surprised at the price and asked how many bedrooms. When told there was just one, she shook her head in wonderment.
Gloria Potter, broker and owner of Lotus Real Estate, has a two-bedroom, one-bath house three blocks away on Hillcrest Street priced at $99,500.
“Square footage is how you determine value,” said the 17-year agent. “For 350 square feet in Garfield, I wouldn't pay more than $65,000.”
Some communities have made special accommodations for tiny houses. Fresno, Calif., recently became the first U.S. city to allow tiny houses on wheels in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes, according to the American Tiny House Association.
Tiny houses on trailers do not need basements or sewerage and are far less expensive to build, but that was not an option here. City ordinances require houses to be tied to public water and sewer systems and have a foundation.
For CityLAB, it was more cost-effective to build on site. “There was not a prefab house to beat that price,” Mr. Schulman said.
Patricia Sheridan: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2613, Twitter: @pasheridan, Instagram: pasheridanpgh. Kevin Kirkland contributed to this story.
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