Credit: Daily News

Just when I thought major cities were never going to build affordable housing again — boom — along comes an article in Reuters telling us YES, micro apartments are now part of a hot new trend. Located in happening neighborhoods, these hostel-style apartments may be super cozy space-wise, often less than 200 square feet, but they come with private bathrooms, prime locations and that rarity these days — affordable rent.

Just starting out on an engineering career, A young Seattle resident, for instance, pays $737 a month for his mini apartment which typically ranges from $500 to $1000. By comparison, average rent for a one bedroom apartment in his city would set him back $1,223. Having no problem with close quarters, lack of storage space and sharing a communal kitchen with 7 neighbors, he in fact enjoys the togetherness aspect and sociability of his living arrangements. Another plus is living in a sought-after neighborhood, an area bustling with restaurants, bars and shops.

Not everyone in Seattle applauds the new trend. Residents worry about over-crowded neighborhoods, over taxed infra structures, traffic congestion and ever more scarce parking spots. Carl Winter, founder of Reasonable Density Seattle calls these micro apartments “boarding houses on steroids.”  But the trend is definitely gathering steam. Since 2006 forty-one micro housing projects have come through the Seattle Department of Planning and Development.

 One valid criticism is their lack of design oversight. Because the micro units don’t include kitchens, developers have been able to skirt environmental reviews and the regulatory process usually applied to the construction of conventional apartments.

Geared for small-scale living, these micro apartments are especially welcome news for students, recent college grads, retirees and service workers, a group long ignored by real estate developers in our leading cities.

Not one to be outdone by forward-thinking fellow mayors, New York’s Mayor Bloomberg launched a design competition last year to develop a building composed of micro-units. It was won by a plan calling for 55 units ranging from 250 to 370 square feet made of prefab modules.  Shooting for a finish date of September 2015, the amenities will include a deck, laundry room, bike storage, cafe, fitness room and a rooftop garden. Not bad. Where do I sign up for a lease?

 

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