300 Square Feet of Living Space All to Yourself

SIXTY THOUSAND (60,000) APPLICATIONS for 14 slots; this sounds like the applicant pool for an Ivy League College with way worse odds. And yes this was a lottery. This was the applicant pool in a recent New York City Affordable Housing Lottery. People were hoping for the chance to get one of the brand new micro-apartments being built in Manhattan. Times have changed; in the 1950’s, homes and even apartments were built with 3–4 bedrooms. But today, half of all New York City residents are single. The demand for large apartments spacious enough for families is dwindling and the need for smaller, more affordable units is skyrocketing. “There is an incredibly high demand in New York City for affordable housing, particularly for our fast-growing population of single and two-person households,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY).

Despite what seems intuitive this trend isn’t just occurring in mega-cities. Many urban housing markets are witnessing the explosive growth of the micro-dwelling, be it a home or apartment. Living spaces nationally and internationally are being downsized. Some apartments recently constructed are as constrained as 300 square feet; the larger 450 square foot version is roomy by comparison. In Bloomberg Business Report’s, July 2015, the article, “Micro Apartments are Coming to the Midwest” verified the national trend. Even cities thought to have plenty of space like Des Moines, Iowa, Omaha, Nebraska and Columbus, Ohio are embracing the micro apartment and home trend. These developments — even in Midwest cities — are fully leased.

So how do these accommodations compare? Something has to give. What gives are lifestyle choices and societal norms. These apartments encourage or intersect with another new trend: modularity. Modularity or, the sharing-lifestyle: the concept of having access to things only when you need them. When you don’t need them, someone else is using them. The trade-off to having a small personal space is the extension of living space in the building. These buildings have amenities that, by intention, will actually get used: community rooms, gyms, decks and terraces, workspaces — these are all ways to enjoy your home within the building while not being stuck exclusively in your 300 square foot apartment. Another major attraction for the lifestyle choice is the home manager — think butler and super rolled into one. These buildings have a lot of shared space and the home manager coordinates the use of the community-shared spaces and in some cases is on-call to care for the residents individual requests; it’s not quite room service, but they want you to feel pampered. (You give up something, you get something.)

The actual apartments are design wonders. Most traditional furniture won’t work, but sleek styles fit just fine. (Perhaps IKEA sales will spike, as well.) These units have high ceilings and windows and maximize the sense of openness with light and color. The company that designed New York’s, My Micro NY, is nArchitects. Principal Eric Bunge, AIA, of nARCHITECTS, explained their goal with the project “was to make the interiors feel as spacious, sunny and comfortable as possible, with augmented ceiling heights, glazing, and storage, a higher level of finishes, and an efficient layout.” See for yourself in the photos below, they clearly succeeded.

The “other half” has their brand of “affordable” micro-apartments, as well. Again in New York — where it’s easy to find fact that is more inconceivable than fiction — a mirco- apartment recently sold for $630,000. No kidding. The real estate adage: Location, Location, Location clearly had something to do with it. According to the New York Post, the upper east side apartment was used as a guest room for a wealthy philanthropist. This posh unit is actually below average in square footage at just 290 square feet. It was snapped up by someone who clearly likes the micro-trend.