Tiny Houses

17 September 2015

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You’ve been following our journal for a while now, and you’ve seen that it takes some effort to build a tiny house.  Alas, it takes some money too.  $191,000 to be exact.

Building a tiny home on a trailer is simple and cheap.  But building a tiny house in a city, on a vacant lot, in an urban environment, is not. In a city, a tiny house can’t just float. It has to have a foundation and be tied into the public water and sewer system.  These are good things. It means the tiny house is going to become a permanent part of the neighborhood. But…these are some of the issues and costs to consider.

Why is it so expensive to build this Tiny House? 

In our journey to build a tiny house in Garfield, we ran into some serious stumbling blocks.

First, our site once had an abandoned home on it. When it was abandoned, the City simply collapsed the house into its basement.  Now we’re in the process of digging all of that out to reach solid ground and build a new basement with a foundation under it. That costs a lot.

Next, the home that once stood on our site was tied into a sewer pipe at the rear of the property, as are all of the properties on that block.  But now the City of Pittsburgh is under a federal court order to separate the storm and sewer drains.  And so we must dig a whopping 12-foot deep trench to the other side of the street to tap into the water and sewer system, rebuild the street and pour a new sidewalk.

And finally, since our site is less than 1,500 s.f. we needed to apply for zoning variances in order to build on it. This increased our architectural costs.  We needed to prepare a zoning variance application, attend the hearing, and revise plans accordingly.

These three issues added at least $50,000 to our development costs.

Curious about our other costs? Take a look:


(Note, if you are building a tiny house for yourself you won’t need to pay a developer fee or to market and sell the house and you’ll save another $15,000)

We know that the Tiny House does not have a market value of $191,000 in Garfield.  In order to recoup our construction costs, we’ll need to sell the house for a minimum of $99,500. The remainder will be covered by our friends and partners at the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh and IKEA Pittsburgh.

It isn’t easy being the first of a kind. Like our generous partners though, we’re confident that this project will serve as a model to provide affordable housing in the city and act as an economic catalyst for the neighborhood. Once this vision is realized, here’s to hoping that some of those stumbling blocks crumble away for future projects.

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