Micro-Units – A Trend Towards Affordable Housing

By Brook Furniture Rentalhttps://www.bfr.com

They go by many names; micro-units, mini-apartments, micro studios and even MicroPADS. However, they all come down to one thing, micro-living. The trend towards smaller apartments has increased over the last few years spurred mostly by the lack of affordable housing in high-density areas combined with the influx of young professionals seeking lucrative employment. No matter what you call them, it looks like the micro-living trend is here to stay.

What exactly is a micro-unit?

Although the term micro-unit has no standard definition, it is usually considered a small studio apartment, between 200 and 300 square feet, outfitted with a bed, sitting area, bathroom, and kitchenette, often fully furnished. Typically, there is access to shared amenities such as a fitness center, rooftop patio, and common room. However, the size variations of micro-units are determined by the market in which they exist.

What’s the attraction?

For many young professionals in high urban areas such as Seattle, San Francisco, and New York, micro-housing provides an affordable way to live in a desirable location and enjoy the hip lifestyle that the community offers.

Micro-apartments are often a starting point for Millennials who spend much of their time either working or enjoying a social life outside the boundaries of their small living space. There is also the attraction of the communal area and amenities offered within the apartment community where residents can relax and socialize.

apartment rooftop

Not burdened by possessions and driven by mobility, well designed, furnished micro-apartments have become an appealing option for young, single twenty-somethings, who want to live alone and eventually move on to more substantial apartments and other jobs.

What spurred the growth of micro-units?

We need to look no further than the starting point, Seattle, the “capital” of micro-housing. Seattle is now one of the top two tech markets in the nation, behind only San Francisco. Over 250,000 people are working in technology-related jobs, many of them employed by tech giants, Amazon and Microsoft. Seattle’s “Boom Town” environment has created a need for more affordable housing to support the influx of young tech professionals migrating to the area.

Novo Micro-Unit

Micro Studio – Image courtesy of Novo Apartments, Seattle

Micro-housing began to appear in the core neighborhoods of Seattle in 2009, and by 2013, developers had produced 1,800 micro-units accounting for nearly a quarter of the city’s housing growth. According to the Seattle Times, by 2015 with another 1,600 micro-units in the pipeline, Seattle led the nation in micro-unit construction.

Carmel Place, NYC

Carmel Place – Image courtesy of BuzzBuzzHome

In 2013, Mayor Bloomberg, in conjunction with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner, Mathew M. Wambau launched the adAPT NYC competition, a pilot program to develop a micro-unit rental building. The competition, which drew 33 proposals, was conceived to address the need for 1-2 person apartments in NYC. The now existing Carmel Place located at 335 East 27th Street, is New York’s first micro-unit building featuring “micro” apartments that range in size from 260 to 360 square feet with 9 and 10-foot ceilings heights, Juliette balconies, and concealed storage renting below the $3,000 per month level.


Image courtesy of MicroPAD designed by Panoramic Interests

San Francisco is no stranger to micro-housing, most notably from developer Patrick Kennedy, of the firm Panoramic Interests. His firm has developed over a dozen projects, in the city, and in neighboring Berkley.

Some of the units are well below 300 square feet, such as the 160-square foot “MicroPAD” that features its own bathroom specifically designed to provide affordable housing to the homeless. Not unlike Seattle, the market for micro-housing in San Francisco is in demand by Millennials, with 60% of the city being single, overwhelmingly male gender, with a willingness to pay more for less space.

The Research

A research project conducted by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) in 2014 found that micro-units smaller than 600 square feet had higher occupancy rates and higher per square foot rents than larger units. ULI also found that residents of micro-apartments tended to be young, single and predominately male, and value proximity to services and the ability to live alone over more living space.

But Seattle, New York, and San Francisco are not alone in the micro-housing trend. Micro-apartment communities have sprung up across the USA in Houston, Boston, Washington DC, Denver and Providence to name a few. And not all are new developments. Providence has converted America’s first shopping mall into 48 tiny apartments while an old shoe factory in Boston is now a micro-community for artists and design enthusiasts.

Though regulations imposed by some cities may slow the growth of micro-housing, the need for well designed, smart and affordable living spaces situated in sought after urban areas will continue to fuel the ongoing development trend of new “innovative housing”.

Brook Furniture Rental offers a wide choice of stylish, high quality furnishings from traditional to ultra-modern designed to suit any apartment style. Talk to our team of professionals to find out how our furnished apartment program can help the success of your community. Visit our website or contact us at 877.285.7368