Tiny Houses

8 April 2016
(Image via David Roth)

(Image via David Roth)

It was a big idea. It started small.

It was a small project. And at times, it was a big headache.

But now, Pittsburgh’s first tiny house has become a home. Roughly six weeks after 567 people lined up on a brisk January afternoon for an open house, the new owners signed the closing docs and got their keys.

The tiny house sold for $109,500, its asking price. Yet, as explained in a previous post on this blog, that’s well below its development costs. We’ve used the Tiny House Journal to document how building a tiny house in a city – on a vacant lot, in an urban environment – isn’t cheap. We ran into three main issues that doubled the development costs: making sure the site was prepared for a new foundation, connecting the home to the city’s separate public water and sewer systems, and ensuring the plans complied with the city’s zoning code. These are all good things. It means the tiny house is going to become a permanent part of the neighborhood.  Generous grants from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, Neighborhood Allies, and IKEA Pittsburgh allowed us to continue the Tiny House journey.

Still, we needed $100,000 for a construction loan. Typically, a bank would finance a construction loan. But since the Garfield Tiny House was the first one to be built in Pittsburgh, there are no comparable situations; since there are no comparable situations, there is no established market. This is a problem for most banks. For us though, that meant pulling off another first on our list of firsts.  We turned to Small Change, a real estate crowdfunding platform, to crowdfund the construction loan.

And then it happened: construction commenced, we successfully crowdfunded the needed amount, the tiny house was completed, put on the market and sold! Precedent exists where it didn’t before. An established market is there for future developers.

All along, our goal in developing the tiny house was to turn eyes to Garfield, and to get people to recognize the neighborhood’s value. Our mission was to start a conversation that focused on Garfield as a place of opportunity, not liability, and to create a model for alternative, affordable housing. The tiny house drew a ton of public and media attention – some complimentary, some contrarian – but succeeded in getting people talking about the neighborhood, and establishing a market. And now, our partners at the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation are talking with us about other potential collaborations.

This tiny house project is over. Its new owners are making it their own. But because of this tiny house, there’s a blueprint for future development in Garfield and beyond. It’s poised to make a big impact for some time.

14 February 2016


1 February 2016


Pittsburgh. A city that’s supposed to be so slow to catch on to new ideas, there’s even an old joke about it. “When the world ends I want to be in Pittsburgh. Everything comes here 20 years late.”

That joke is old. Some of us have been thinking about a new Pittsburgh for a quite a while. We’ve banded together. We’ve lobbied. We’ve persuaded. We’ve funded. We’ve designed. We’ve built…a tiny house. So, the question: is Pittsburgh ready for a new idea, ready for tiny houses? We are.

Yesterday, on a bright January afternoon, we held our Tiny Open House. Our tiny door was opened wide and the people just kept on coming. We had some inkling that this might happen. Our friends at Uppercut Studios had made a short video trailer about the Tiny Open House and nearly 5000 people saw it on Facebook and over 600 viewed it on Vimeo. On Sunday morning, we opened the paper to see the Tiny Open House a front page article.

A tiny house is tiny, so we let people come inside in twos and threes and fours. Two leave; two go in. Three leave; three go in. We kept count. Every time someone stepped inside, we clicked. We passed the 100 count fairly early; and then, soon after, 200. After they’d been inside, they congregated in little groups outside watching and chatting. By the end of the event, we counted 567 visitors.

Mostly people came because they were curious. “We love the tiny house show on HGN. It’s so great to see a real one.” Others were thinking of building one of their own. “I’d really like to know how you do this.” Others were a little less sympathetic. “Where do we put the big furniture?”

The idea that got the most attention was the full basement. “Yes,” we said. “Full basement, concrete floor, eight-foot clearance. Not recommended for 10-foot people.”

Everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves. It was a curiously joyous crowd. It seemed apropos to start coming up with some brand new jokes.

29 January 2016

KDKA-TV | CBS Pittsburgh’s Andy Sheehan reports out from the tiny house just days before its grand unveiling to the public.

21 January 2016

So what’s the deal with this Tiny House? Watch this video, from our friends at Uppercut Studios, to find out!

And we’ll see you at the Open House on January 31.

15 January 2016

IMG_3010January 14. Drywall, insulation, lights, oh my!

12 January 2016


Tiny House Open House

Sunday, January 31, 1-4pm

223 N. Atlantic Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Kibitzers welcome. Got a question? Email Eve.

5 January 2016

IMG_2984December 29. Tiny House, trellis, stairs and all – nearly complete.

21 December 2015


December 15. Tiny House standing tall, making a bold statement.

15 December 2015

IMG_2957December 8. Framing the porch.