How Small Can You Go? Big Cities Embrace Micro Housing Trend

How small is too small when it comes to your apartment? Small studio apartments have long been popular in cities where rents are high and space is at a premium. In New York City, a town already famed for living spaces that many other might find miniscule, a new initiative is in place to bring even smaller units to market. The Bloomberg administration has proposed adAPT NYC, an apartment building full of micro-apartments. The mayor’s plan was recently certified by the City Planning Commission and now awaits the public approval process.

The project contains 55 units ranging between 250 square feet and 370 square feet. In order to give the residents some additional space the building will also have a rooftop garden, lounges on many  floors, a deck, a larger lounge for dinners and events, laundry room, additional storage, a cafe, and a fitness room.  The building will be constructed using prefab modules, manufactured locally and snapped into place onsite. The building is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2015.No word yet on what the rent will be. The project is meant to accommodate the changing makeup of NYC residents.  According to a press release of the adAPT NYC project New York City currently has 1.8 million one- and two-person households, but only one million studios and one-bedrooms.

New York isn’t the only city checking out micro-apartments as an answer for single-person households.  In Boston, there is increasing interest in smaller units in order to cope with the rising price of rent. There city officials have determined micro-apartments must be at least 350 square feet and are so far only approved for the South Boston Innovation District.

San Francisco is leading the micro trend with 38 Harriet Street, a micro-unit building that opened recently. The building contains 23 units, each a tidy 295 square feet. They rent for $1,600, which sounds pricey until you consider that a studio in San Francisco can run you over $2,000. The units are already all spoken for save for a showroom apartment leased to The California College of the Arts. Like the adAPT NYC project this is a prefab project composed of units stacked together. The four story-building has nine-foot ceilings, custom built-ins, bike storage, solar water heating, and a washer and dryer in each unit.

Micro-apartments may just be taking off here but in Europe they’ve been part of life for a while. The extreme version might be 130-square-foot studio in Paris. The bento-box like space was once the master bedroom of a larger apartment and uses a cantilevered floor plan to provide extra space.

Micro-living isn’t for everyone. It requires major editing of all your belongings. If you like to collect things or just have a lot of stuff, this isn’t for you. Also living in this small a space requires a commitment to keeping the space clear. Even a little clutter can overwhelm a tiny space. Also because spaces often serve double duty, the experience can be akin to living on a boat or in an RV, where furniture is often moved around to create sleeping or dining space. But for those looking to save on rent and able to live lean, a micro unit may be a way to enjoy life in the big city.

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