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While building Harford County's first tiny house, Craig Falanga noted the need for a different kind of small housing in Harford, and plans to build 13 to 15 apartments at the corner of Bond Street and Route 22 in downtown Bel Air.
While building Harford County's first tiny house, Craig Falanga noted the need for a different kind of small housing in Harford, and plans to build 13 to 15 apartments at the corner of Bond Street and Route 22 in downtown Bel Air. (Erika Butler / Baltimore Sun)

Rain has slowed a lot of construction work in Harford County this year, including Craig Falanga’s tiny house in Bel Air, especially when he’s trying to work on it in his spare time.

The builder and developer thinks he’s just about caught up, however, and hopes to have his first house done by the end of September and begin working on two new tiny houses on each side of the first.

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His foray into tiny houses has opened his eyes to another type of housing that’s needed in Harford County — small, affordable housing for people 60 and older.

“It’s scratched the surface of something that’s needed for different parts of society,” Falanga, the owner of Pinnacle Design, said.

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He’s hoping to address that with a new project — a three-story apartment building in downtown Bel Air.

‘Micro apartments’

Falanga said he stopped counting after fielding more than 400 phone calls from people interested in his tiny house; about 50 percent of them were from people ages 60 and older.

The other 50 percent were from people 60 and younger who were divorced, young people just starting out who don’t want roommates, couples who don’t want children and people who are minimalists, among others.

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“This need is there,” Falanga said.

He is hoping to provide that type of housing with 13 to 15 “micro apartments” at the corner of Route 22 and Bond Street.

Falanga bought the 41-by-300-foot lot for $240,000 from the estate of Ruth Foard, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Ms. Foard, who died in December 2016 at age 95, spent nearly 70 years working at Lutz Appliances in Bel Air.

She lived in the house on South Bond Street for which it was said time stood still, according to her obituary, because not even state road builders could uproot her when they tried to reconfigure the congested intersection of Churchville Road and Bond Street to improve traffic flow in the 1990s. They curved the street around her property, instead.

Falanga is planning to build a three-story building with 13 to 15 apartments, depending on whether he includes business on the first floor to create a mixed-use space.

They’ll be about 600 square feet — one bedroom, one bathroom and kitchenette with granite counters and high-end appliances, he said.

He’s aiming to rent the apartments for $800 a month, he said.

“That just doesn’t exist anywhere,” Falanga said. “Those things will be gone the second people know they are rentals.”

He doesn’t anticipate being able to build for at least a year. While the property is zoned for the type of housing he wants to build, stormwater management is difficult on a property as small as this one, and the review process could take the better part of a year, he said.

“I kind of know what I want the building to look like, but I have to solve the other issues first to finally determine what it will look like,” he said.

Back to tiny houses

Falanga and his crew have been working on his tiny house — the first such type of housing in Harford County — in his spare time. And with all the rain this spring and summer, he hasn’t had much of it.

“Coming out of winter, we were behind because of the weather, it takes a while to get caught up,” he said. “And we haven’t been caught up with our regular work, but we’re just about out of the woods.”

The house is 560 square feet home — with a loft — on a 33.3-foot wide lot. It has a wrap-around porch, a crawl space instead of a basement and is connected to public water and sewer.

It’s pretty far along, with all the sheet rock up, and shouldn’t take but a few weeks to finish once he can work on it full-time, which he anticipates will be toward the end of September, he said. While he’s finishing the first house, Falanga intends to build a house on either side.

“What we’ve learned is it’s not really efficient to do one at a time,” he said. “When we do the other two, we’ll do them every day. It will take five weeks to do them completely.”

He hopes to rent them for about $1,200 a month, he said.

Falanga wants all three to look different on the outside, and while the exteriors will be different colors, the three will be similar on the inside.

“The third plan is finalized in my mind and on scratch paper, but not on plans,” Falanga said. “When you’re dealing with 600 square feet, a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen, there are only so many ways you can design it.

He’s going on vacation with his family this weekend and has his mind set to have it complete before they leave.

The goal is to have all three available to rent in early November, just in time for Christmas.

Rain has hampered construction of Craig Falanga's first tiny house in Harford County, but says he expects to have it finished by the end of September, when he plans to start construction on two new tiny houses, one on either side.
Rain has hampered construction of Craig Falanga's first tiny house in Harford County, but says he expects to have it finished by the end of September, when he plans to start construction on two new tiny houses, one on either side. (Erika Butler / Baltimore Sun)

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