A New York Times article (link here) describes the first microhousing project near Midtown Manhattan. The units are prefabricated in Brooklyn, and the city waived zoning restrictions to allow their diminutive size in a desirable neighborhood. This article profiles several small-space dwellers. It also includes a brief discussion with architect Eric Bunge about American housing trends and “how much space we think we need.”
A Boston Magazine article (thumbnail below) looks at the micro-unit as a broader trend. It explains the appeal of choosing a smaller-than-average living space in a desirable location, and it highlights some design features that enable these spaces to work. The article notes their high cost per square foot and remarks, “Don’t mistake these for affordable housing.”
Both articles take a real-estate perspective on microhousing. They note that a growing number of singles live in cities and don’t need the two-bedroom model common to many existing apartments. Adding more one-bedroom and studio apartments to the market allows singles to choose smaller quarters, opens a supply of larger dwellings for families, and presumably decreases prices for all. In addition, both articles point out the value of amenities and shared spaces, enabling small private quarters and enhancing the social setting.
Regarding the second article, I think it’s a terrible mistake to judge housing by its cost per square foot. Not all square feet are equal. A 300-square-foot apartment with a well-thought-out layout may fit your lifestyle just as well as a 600-square-foot apartment with an extra bedroom you don’t need… making the comparison not cost per square foot but overall cost. Smart, efficient design is a hallmark of most micro-units newly built or renovated, and the result is a lower price of entry to a desirable neighborhood. Sounds like affordable housing to me.
(I’ll write an article sometime about what “affordable housing” really means.)