With a 16-foot wide lot in the middle of a city, what can be done to build a single residence for a family?

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for promoting sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He advocates for smart policies, regulations, and implementation programs that enhance urban environments by committing to quality design, accommodating growth, providing a diversity of housing choices, and adequately providing public services. Stephen primarily writes about land use and transportation issues.


  1. I’m curious what the neighbors have to say about this particular house. Words such as Eyesore and Sore Thumb come to mind. Perhaps in the world of urbanists, density trumps everything else.

    • Dissing someone’s home is kinda like dissing their shoes or their haircut.

      It’s either what they personally prefer, or what they can afford.

      So it’s either asserting one’s own aesthetic preferences are more legitimate than theirs, or rubbing salt in a wound they don’t have the wherewithal to heal.

      • When I studied planning, we learned to pay attention to our environment, to design for our surroundings. To respect our neighbors, both natural and constructed. But to today’s urbanists, density is all that matters.

      • Bill, that’s an unbuildable lot. At least it would be in Seattle. Last I knew, a lot had to be 25′ wide to build a SF house.

        In the old days, builders would offer such leftover scraps of land to adjoining property owners. If neighbors refused to buy, they would build on it, something necessarily awkward~ those were called spite houses. Cities didn’t like that so codes were amended to require certain lot minimums in order to build. (All this recalled from UW planning classes many years ago)

        • 90% of the housing in the city of Dubrovnik is built on lots that are less than 25 feet. Should we tear down that UNESCO World Heritage site?

  2. Britain has tons of 19th century townhouses under 20ft wide. Entire towns were built that way, most based on the same basic layout. Generally the designs have aged well, and those in good locations are sought-after today.

  3. It’s nicely done, but it really isn’t all that unusual, so I’m confused by what seems to be an attitude of “oh my gosh, isn’t this inventive?”

    My old neighborhood in Allentown PA is basically blocks of 12 ft wide row homes. I had what was called a 2.5 story, 2 full stories plus the third floor was full height it was only half as deep as the rest of the stories.

    • It’s not unusual for townhouses and rowhouses, which is true. It is unusual in North America for single-family lots though, which was the point of the video, and why it is quite interesting given how spacious it is. That said, personally, I’m with Tony77. I used to live in a 15-foot wide early 20th century Irish rowhouse, which was immensely spacious and charming. I miss that architectural approach.

  4. Nice! Our house is similar in concept – 3 stories, 15 feet wide, about 13.5 feet of interior space across. I’ts on a 25 foot lot, with 5 foot setbacks on either side, but with minor changes to the interior it would work fine as a true row-house style design without side windows.

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