First Designs Revealed For What Tiny Living Could Look Like in Over-the-Rhine

Brad Cooper unveiled his first designs for two 250-square-foot homes that will be built on the northern edge of Over-the-Rhine later this year.

After showcasing the designs and explaining the process to prospective home-buyers last night, Cooper now says that he hopes to keep moving the project forward so that they can be built by the end of the year, and welcome their tenants by 2016.

The homes are admittedly not for everyone. Instead of focusing on standard sizes and layouts, Cooper has instead focused on a minimalist approach that requires creativity and an open mind to make it work. But if recent trends in tiny living are any indicator, he might be on to something locally.

“You can still live large in a small space, but the homeowner’s lifestyle needs to align with the ethos of tiny living,” says Cooper.

The two initial lots that Cooper is looking to build on are located on Peete Street, where most of the northern side of the street has sat vacant for many years. The lots are small and have a steep slope near the rear, making them nearly impossible to develop according to traditional building practices.

The site layouts, which are still being refined as part of the ongoing design process, leave room for outdoor living space, as well as an adjacent, off-street spot to park a car.

Cooper, who is a professionally trained architect, is being partially driven to develop such a concept due to his belief that affordable housing can be for everyone, but that it begins with a quality upfront investment.

The goal is to sell both of the homes, which are priced at $70,000, by the end of summer or early fall, then to break ground shortly thereafter. For that price, Cooper says that the home-buyer would get most things that are expected in any home, but have options to include a full-size refrigerator, dish washer, washer/dryer, and built-in furniture.

Each of the homes will also come equip with solar panels at the rear of the lot.

At the $70,000 price point, Cooper says that someone making just $10 an hour working 40 hours a week could afford to buy one of the homes. Using standard financing benchmarks, he estimates that someone of that background could finance the home for approximately $500 a month after making a $2,000 down payment.

To help first-time home-buyers through the process, Cooper has partnered with Working in Neighborhoods so that they can get the information they need before moving forward.

Should such an endeavor be successful, it could prove to be a scalable model that the city could use to develop small, difficult lots that have long sat vacant. Most of these locations are located in or very near the center city, so it also gives people an affordable option for buying close to the core.

“You’re not just buying a tiny home, you’re purchasing a stake in one of the most remarkable historic districts in the country,” Cooper noted.

Interested home-buyers are required to attend one of the planned outreach sessions, like the one held last night. While the dates and locations for those have yet to be released, those who are interested can receive updates by signing up at StartSmallHomes.com.

The effort is being funded, in part, through a $100,000 Haile Fellowship at People’s Liberty.

  • I really like the way these look, and look forward to seeing more renderings.

  • EDG

    Nice. Glad he went with the vernacular flat roof rather than the gabled roof that seems to be most tiny houses. The placement in the rendering also looks good so they don’t come off as a miniature house in an open field. Only question is the driveway, is zoning requiring that?

    • Bradley Cooper

      RE Parking: Zoning requires a parking space for a single family home. The lots are in RM 0.7, I’ll be working through alternatives to a concrete driveway such as permeable pavers, parking strips, etc.

    • Adam Nelson

      Here’s your argument at a zoning hearing…

      with one dwelling unit and SF development in that zoning, you should only have to provide one space. The curb cut for that will likely be 10′ + a foot or so in each direction. That’s 12 feet. A parallel parking space is maybe 20′ in depth, not sure what the total lot width you have is, but let’s say it’s a typical old-urbanism lot and it’s 25′. If you’ve got a 12′ curb cut on a 25′ lot and you need 20′ to parallel, you’ve just negated an on-street parking space to provide an off-street parking space. And in doing so you’ve intruded upon the safety and walkability of the street.

      Also, have you explored the streetcar stop exemption for off-street parking? Can’t remember exactly how it works so can’t say for sure. Just another thing to think about.

    • Adam Nelson

      Hearing is $300. cheaper than providing the parking.

    • Bradley Cooper

      There’s not on-street parking on this section of Peete. It’s not even wide enough for two cars to pass without one driving on the sidewalk.

      In talking to potential buyers and neighbors the general consensus is to have a parking spot.

    • EDG

      Parking across the street as seen in the rendering wouldn’t be that cumbersome but I understand the marketing component. It’s a nominal cost to you to provide surface parking and there’s plenty of room for it, but providing it as part your model seems to run counter to the affordability need related to the house itself and would hinder potential infill opportunities in south OTR where there are more buildings.

    • EDG

      Right, if he wanted to go without parking I’m sure he’d have no problem getting it waived. Given the boondocks context, choosing to have parking seems fine but he may need a variance to do permeable/strips anyways.

    • JohnDurnell

      I’m a protencial buyer. Perfect for me. No car, I ride metro. Only need wheelchair ramp. Built in funiture is great, bed that folds to the wall, small day bed with storage, wall rack for TV, ironing board folds to wall, washer/dryer combo, clothes line in yard, energy efficient, walk in shower, built in rack for microwave. And love thoughts solar panels. And shopping at Findlay Market ! Live small, think big!

    • Brian Boland

      Maybe it’s time to revise the zoning requirement,

  • Brian Boland

    I like the idea, but I hope the design and exterior look blend in well and the construction quality must be good. I think these small houses will suffer faster decline in value if they are not built well and/or look odd for the neighborhood. These designs do seem to blend in fairly well.

  • I’m sorry but having a tiny home with a car parking space is dumb. There is almost as much space devoted to car storage as living.

    • EDG

      North OTR in this area is pretty much the boondocks and not filling in anytime soon, so there’s room for now for offstreet parking. But the aesthetic comes off as mobile home park if this is supposed to be a local model like the architecture.

  • Don’t know the zoning on this but can you offer dwelling space above the vehicle (making it into an open but covered car stall?) That’s a lot of s.f. that could be easily reclaimed!

    • EDG

      Yes to the carport-loft idea!

  • Jerome6957

    The design is interesting, but like other folks, I find the parking spot to be completely out of scale with the whole concept of ‘tiny house living’. It seems like a tremendous waste of space; if you consider the parking a design element, the car looks as if it’s more important than the house.

  • Brad McLaughlin

    I dig it. Makes my ~700 ft house look palatial.
    Some things from my experience:
    Go with undercounter fridge, 2 burner cook top, no oven
    Single sink is fine, just need counter space for drying rack and microwave or juicer etc
    Crazy question…can they have a basement? Lots cooler down there for sleeping, space for a bit of storage, maybe a small freezer. I prefer freezing some things over canning.
    I like PerspectiveZ’s covering the car spot, also an awning over patio, then put a bike rack type thing under it. Amazing how much a bike (or 2) renders floorspace useless.

  • shawn

    I think this Cooper guy is trying to come across as a ” I feel a need to help people ” kind of guy… Reality is he feels a need to line his pockets and screw people. $70,000 for a 250 square foot home??? Hey, let’s charge some one who only makes $25,000 yearly $280.00 a square foot for a tiny home. If he was really wanting to help people this isn’t where they would be developed, nor the price for them. Don’t use poor people as as a segway to put your name out there