Micro apartments make urban living affordable
It seems like everything except housing and televisions have gotten smaller during the last couple of decades, including computers, cars, telephones and file cabinets. But we may be in for a return to micro living at least in densely populated cities.
To say that China has challenges facing it when it comes to housing its 230 million urban residents is like predicting it’s going to snow in Vermont this winter. China’s economy has slowed considerably in part because it too faced a housing bubble, which has now deflated impacting its overall economy. It also is facing a shift from rural to urban living for millions of Chinese, many of them single people who are moving to China’s growing cities.
Dragonomics, a Chinese research firm, estimates that China will need to build 10 million apartments a year until the year 2030 to accommodate this shift in population and China’s rapid urbanization. In response to this projected need, China Vanke, China’s largest property developer, has designed an apartment that measures 160 square feet, approximately 10.5 by 15.4 feet.
The apartment, which is the size of a parking space, has a bed that folds to make seating, a vertical tube shower; lighting operated by an iPad and built in desk and kitchen space. The asking price is $21,500 which is six times per-capita disposable income for China’s urban residents.
Not to be outdone by China, large cities in the United States also are looking for ways to make urban living more affordable. Developers in New York City, where small apartments have always been the norm, are seeking a change in zoning in order to offer micro apartments.
These apartments are estimated to be between 275 and 300 square feet, downright roomy compared to China’s micro units. New York City, where average rents are about $3,418 a month in Manhattan, has already approved a pilot project for micro apartments.
San Francisco, a city that also has an affordable apartment issue with average studio apartments costing $2,126, is also considering a change in zoning to allow developers to build micro units as small as 220 square feet. It is estimated that these units will rent for $1,200 to $1,500 per month and close the affordability gap for single people, students and the elderly.
Opponents of the proposed micro unit legislation have started calling them “Twitter apartments.” In addition to New York and San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and Boston have also experimented with micro units, and San Jose, Calif., already allows 220 square foot units.
So are micro-units a logical choice for cities with extremely high cost housing or are we sending our urban citizens back to the future to live in teeny tiny housing? Do humans have the ability to do an extreme downsize for the privilege of dwelling in an urban hot spot where most living happens outside of their apartment? Do we really want to go back to the simplicity of what amounts to contemporary cave dwelling?
The definition of micro is anything extremely small in scope or capability. If you think about it, cabins on cruise ships are about 200 square feet, most with refrigerators. Throw in a microwave, and you’re set. As for me, if I’m going to live in a 200 square foot space, it’s going to be a floating one, preferably with stops in Italy and France. .