10/14 Garfield’s first tiny house has a bigger price tag than expected – $190,000 for 350 sq ft

foundation for the first tiny house in Garfield, PA

foundation for the first tiny house in Garfield, PA

A tiny house will soon stand in Garfield, PA. Unfortunately, its costs ended up being not so tiny.

Last November, City Paper reported how tiny houses might provide affordable single-family homes in blighted neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. But thanks to unforeseen costs, the expenses associated with the tiny house on North Atlantic Avenue have ballooned to more than $190,000, about twice what was initially expected.

“I am really disappointed about the costs. I think I am going to get hate mail about it,” says Eve Picker, CEO of cityLAB, the nonprofit building the tiny house.

And while much about building the tiny house was unique — it is, after all, the first of its kind in Pittsburgh — experts say that the inflated cost of building on vacant lots is a widespread issue, whether a home is miniscule or a mansion.

Tiny houses, while new to Pittsburgh, have been a growing phenomenon. They started out as alternative homes that were constructed on top of trailers (to skirt zoning laws), but are now being constructed as legal homes. Nationally, some cities are considering adjusting their minimum-square-footage requirements, paving the way for tiny houses with cinder-block foundations that are hooked up to utility grids.

The Garfield tiny house, thanks to zoning variances granted for its lot, will be anchored to a foundation and have typical amenities: water, sewage and electricity. The one-story, 350-square-foot home will also include a bathtub, two mini-fridges, a stove, a 24-inch dishwasher, a washer/dryer combo and a small front porch.

The original project cost was about $100,000. Major factors increasing the price tag included the high cost of site preparation, says Picker. She says CityLAB excavated the lot to remove the remnants of a collapsed home and dug a 12-foot-deep trench to separate the sewage line from the property’s stormwater runoff, to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. Because the project is the first of its kind, costs associated with the zoning variances were also higher than expected. Such additional expenditures totaled about $50,000, says Picker. She later learned that such costs are not uncommon among projects on deeply distressed lots.

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