Tiny houses, big deal

The trend is to move from McMan­sions to tiny spa­ces. But it’s a trend that hasn’t quite worked out its teething prob­lems yet.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SPACES - By PA­TRI­CIA SHERI­DAN

TINY houses are big right now.

There are hun­dreds of blogs and web­sites de­voted to them and the de­sign web­site Houzz. com cur­rently has 2,716 sto­ries on the sub­ject. Tele­vi­sion shows such as Tiny House Na­tion and doc­u­men­taries such as Tiny: A Story About Liv­ing Small have Amer­i­cans dream­ing of rad­i­cally un­clut­ter­ing their lives and liv­ing with less stuff and a lot less square footage.

The ma­jor at­trac­tion of tiny houses is the idea of liv­ing a sim­pler life with fewer pos­ses­sions. But af­ford­abil­ity also is a draw. The low price tag of most tiny houses means fi­nan­cial free­dom, at least from a mort­gage, in places like Cal­i­for­nia where hous­ing costs are high.

Elaine Walker, co­founder of the Amer­i­can Tiny House As­so­ci­a­tion in the United States, says a tiny house can be built for US$ 20,000 ( RM82,000) if you build it your­self and use do­nated or re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als. Ex­perts at tinyhousebuild. com say it can be done for as lit­tle as US$ 10,000 ( RM41,000) if built off- site and trans­ported to a lot. Walker’s 120- square- foot ( 11sqm) home in Pal­metto, Florida, is por­ta­ble.

“I have a beau­ti­fully crafted home that’s fully paid for and that I can take with me if I need to re­lo­cate,” she says.

Not ev­ery­one is con­tent with such a no- frills tiny house. One done by a lux­ury builder can rise to US$ 80,000 ( RM320,000), Walker says.

“On av­er­age, many are around US$ 45,000 ( RM180,000) but the trend has been to make them both big­ger and more ex­pen­sive.”

So why does Pitts­burgh’s first tiny house cost more than twice the av­er­age? The house, lo­cated in the Garfield neigh­bour­hood, ac­tu­ally cost much more to build – US$ 191,000 ( RM780,000) – than its ask­ing price, ac­cord­ing to Eve Picker, the ar­chi­tect and ur­ban plan­ner from Aus­tralia who spear­headed the pro­ject.

Picker, who has been re­hab­bing old build­ings in Pitts­burgh since the early 1990s, is CEO of Ci­tyLAB and leads No Wall Pro­duc­tions and We Do Prop­erty Man­age­ment, Inc.

Half of the con­struc­tion cost went to­ward re­me­di­a­tion of the land, which in­cluded re­mov­ing an old foun­da­tion, dig­ging a base­ment and ex­ca­va­tion for a sewer line, says Ben Schul­man, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor of Small Change, a real es­tate equity crowd fund­ing plat­form.

The two- year pro­ject was also com­pli­cated by de­lays in get­ting city per­mits and vari­ances for smaller set­backs and other re­quire­ments, Schul­man says.

The house, which was still be­ing fin­ished late last month, sits on a 1,050- square- foot ( 97sqm) lot be­tween two much older, three- storey houses.

Un­like its vinyl- sided neigh­bours, its cov­ered in laven­der fi­bre ce­ment sid­ing and set back far­ther from the side­walk.

Heather Wild­man and Chad Chalmers of Wild­man Chalmers De­sign worked with Picker on its de­sign, which in­cludes one sleep­ing/ liv­ing room mea­sur­ing about 7m by 2m, a nearly 2m- by- 2m kitchen and a 2m- by- 1.2m bath­room with a half a me­tre- deep util­ity closet run­ning its length. The ceil­ings range from 2m to 2.5m.

Many of the house’s com­po­nents are also tiny: a half- me­tre tub, a counter- height re­frig­er­a­tor and a com­bi­na­tion washer/ dryer in the cor­ner of the kitchen. The kitchen stove, sink and dish­washer, how­ever, are stan­dard size. The un­heated base­ment of­fers 32.5sqm of stor­age space.

The sleep­ing/ liv­ing room has a long desk be­neath a front pic­ture win­dow but no other fur­ni­ture. Picker said the buyer could choose a fold­ing Mur­phy bed or loft bed for the blank wall at the far end.

The house’s price is al­most iden­ti­cal to the me­dian house price in Garfield last year, YS$ 110,000 ( RM450,000). So why did Picker choose this neigh­bour­hood?

“To re­brand Garfield, to turn eyes onto it and to build some­thing af­ford­able in a mar­ket where af­ford­able hous­ing is very, very dif­fi­cult to build,” Picker says.

She says she hopes that Garfield, which is sand­wiched be­tween two ur­ban re­de­vel­op­ment suc­cess sto­ries, East Lib­erty and Lawrenceville, will be the next neigh­bour­hood to ex­pe­ri­ence a re­birth.

But the house’s price is rais­ing some eye­brows. Mau­reen Broge, 58, stopped by late last month to in­quire about the price. “That’s kinda steep,” she says. An­other woman driv­ing by was sur­prised at the price and asked how many bed­rooms. When told there was just one, she shook her head in won­der­ment.

Glo­ria Pot­ter, bro­ker and owner of Lotus Real Es­tate, has a two- bed­room, one- bath house three blocks away on Hill­crest Street priced at US$ 99,500 ( RM400,000).

“Square footage is how you de­ter­mine value,” says the agent who has al­most two decades of ex­pe­ri­ence. “For 350 square feet ( 32.5sqm) in Garfield, I wouldn’t pay more than US$ 65,000 ( RM266,000).”

Some com­mu­ni­ties have made spe­cial ac­com­mo­da­tions for tiny houses. Fresno, Cal­i­for­nia, re­cently be­came the first US city to al­low tiny houses on wheels in neigh­bour­hoods zoned for sin­gle- fam­ily homes, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Tiny House As­so­ci­a­tion.

Tiny houses on trail­ers do not need base­ments or sew­er­age and are far less ex­pen­sive to build, but that was not an op­tion here. City or­di­nances re­quire houses to be tied to pub­lic wa­ter and sewer sys­tems and have a foun­da­tion.

For Ci­tyLAB, it was more cost- ef­fec­tive to build on site.

“There was not a pre­fab house to beat that price,” Schul­man says. – Pitts­burgh Post- Gazette/ Tribune News Ser­vice

Picker in the un­fin­ished liv­ing/ sleep­ing room of the tiny house. The kitchen is to the left and will have a stan­dard sized stove, sink and dish­washer.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.