The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” seems to fit a tiny-home endeavor taking place in Pittsburgh. The city’s first tiny home—a 350-square-foot living space, plus basement—was built in January and took much collaboration and muscle to pull off. The forward-thinking “do tank” CityLAB working with Small Change, a real estate crowdfunding organization, raised $100,000 for the project in just three months.

Despite the big energy surrounding the tiny home, one question has lingered in the minds of the project’s investors, neighbors and curious onlookers: Could a tiny house make a difference in the community?

“One of the neat things about this tiny home is that it’s within the urban fabric,” says Ben Sculman of Small Change. “It’s not on wheels and has an actual basement.”

The site for the house sits on an old brownfield lot in Garfield, an underserved neighborhood in Pittsburgh. “Garfield has 300 or so vacant lots,” Schulman says, “It’s like the doughnut hole in the middle of the doughnut.”

The folks at CityLAB believe that tiny houses will help fill the holes in the Garfield neighborhood due to their affordability and novel appeal. The tiny home is located in Pittsburgh’s East End, a booming development area for business and entertainment.

With energy-efficient windows and doors and a list price of $109,500, the home has created quite a buzz in Garfield. An open house drew in 567 people to visit the sleek, modern tiny home furnished with IKEA appliances and décor that seems to have many urbanites sold. In fact, the home is already set to have a new occupant—the property is close to closing.
But in this project CityLAB did more than build a tiny home. The tiny home was also a social experiment to see how cities can create solutions to common urban issues. While building the home, CityLAB kept a tiny house building journal detailing their trials and tribulations. They blogged about the journey in their online journal, providing photos of process.

“This project not only serves as a model for Pittsburgh, but the model will likely serve as a catalyst for other cities looking to build tiny homes,” Schulman says.


Sarah Miller is a teacher and writer specializing in sustainability, food and education. She is a strong supporter of Veggie U, a program that brings gardening inside the classroom walls. You can visit her at www.sarahmillerwriter.com or http://veggieu.org.

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