Tiny Houses

13 August 2014


223 N.Atlantic Avenue is located in an R1-D-H zoning district, which stands for Single Unit Detached Residential High Density District, meaning that single family detached houses are permitted in this district. Each house must meet the following site development standards:

1) The minimum front setback must 15′, but the code also permits a contextual setback to match the neighboring houses, which are 0′ on N. Atlantic Avenue. (You are probably wondering what a “contextual” setback is.  Section 925.06 B of the code addresses Contextual Front Setbacks. In a nutshell, the front setback is permitted to fall anywhere between the zoning code requirement of 15′ and the front setback on an adjacent lot, which is 0′ in this instance);
2) The minimum rear setback must be 15′;
3) The minimum side setback is 5′, but a contextual setback is allowed since the house next door has a 3′ setback as well;
4) The maximum height of a house must be 40′ and no more than three stories;
5) One off-street parking spot must be provided; and
6) One street tree must be planted for every 30 lineal foot of frontage. Since our  frontage is less than 30′ and we have to fit a curb cut into that frontage as well, we are probably going to argue for no tree.

Once all these setbacks are applied, we have just enough space left over to build Minim!

Perhaps the most frequently asked question about building a tiny house in Pittsburgh is, can it have wheels? Section 906.02 of the Pittsburgh Zoning Code treats any structure built on a chassis which is transportable as a mobile home and mobile homes are not permitted in residential districts in the City of Pittsburgh.

So all you wanna-be tiny house dwellers, you will have to ground your tiny house in Pittsburgh.


  1. John MacCallum said on

    Just curious, was the decision against the street tree based on cost, space, or aesthetics?

  2. Ron Martin said on

    Is a full perimeter foundation required? Could a person remove the wheels from a towed pre-fab (park model) for instance, and put it on concrete pylons?

  3. admin said on

    John … It really is a tiny frontage and with a curb-cut a tree would block the front of the house completely. I love street trees and if there is any way to fit one in, we’ll add it.

  4. admin said on

    Ron …A pier foundation is very feasible and allowed by code. The issue we have is that Minim is designed with the plumbing at both ends of the house, which is not ideal. This will require us to slope the plumbing (below the floor joists) from the back side of the house to the front of the house and we have concerns that the plumbing pipes will freeze if exposed – they would be exposed with piers. Along with that, we don’t have a big foundation and we are building on a site that had an existing house on it, which means if we place a pier on an old basement that wasn’t properly backfilled (there is a good chance of that) we may have settlement issues. A spread foundation will do a better job of distributing the load. I hope this helps!

  5. So what the no wheel consideration from an official or just from your reading of the ordinances? Because I immediately thought about pop ups and campers which seemed to be included in the line “other wheeled vehicles designed to be drawn by passenger automobiles”

  6. As far as we can tell, the City of Pittsburgh does not permit wheels on tiny houses

  7. I’ve read through section 906.02 in the Code listed at http://ecode360.com/13713866, which says mobile homes are prohibited in FP-0 Floodplain Overlay Districts. Looking at the interactive zoning map here http://gis.pittsburghpa.gov/zoning/ and the floodways map here http://pittsburghpa.gov/publicsafety/gmap.htm, the floodplain area seems to be limited to the area around the three rivers, as well as a couple other waterways like Nine Mile Run, not to places like Garfield.

    I’ve read the rest of sections 902 and 903, as well as searched for any other references to mobile homes in the code, and I can’t find any other prohibitions on building them in a residential area. I’m sorry to belabor this, but can you help us understand where your understanding of this prohibition came from? I think that many of us who are interested in building tiny homes want the flexibility of building them on wheels, and I’d be very disappointed if I was prevented from doing so anywhere within the city limits.

    Thank you very much for continuing to update us on the progress. This is a tremendous resource, and I’m excited to see the house in real life.

  8. Adam

    I’ll be posting a response to this question, which so many people have asked, very soon.


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