New York City just approved a plan for an apartment complex on Manhattan’s East Side featuring 55 “micro units.” These units will range from 370 to 250 square feet. The prior minimum size for an apartment in New York City was 400 square feet.
New York joins many other cities in embracing micro units. Last year San Francisco changed their building code to allow micro units as small as 220 square feet and is already considering lowering this to 150 square feet.
Vancouver added micro units in 2011, ranging in size from 226 to 300 square feet.
Cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris have long allowed micro units. I used to live in Tokyo. I didn't live in a micro unit, but I did live in a 2 story, 3 bedroom house that was only 800 square feet. Needless to say, the rooms were cozy.
If you're curious what these units look like, Smart Space - a SF micro unit developer - has micro unit designs on their website.
Several trends are driving the interest in micro units. Cost, obviously, is the big one. These units are substantially cheaper to build and rent (so far almost all U.S. micro units are rental) than traditional apartments.
Atlantic Cities has a good description of the appeal of micro units beyond cost and the amenties that come with Smart Space's micro units:
"... tiny apartments are particularly well-suited for the active, car-free, single Millennials already coming to American cities. SMARTSPACE Mission will include spacious common areas that encourage residential camaraderie and balance out the spartan quarters themselves. Elaborate lobbies, a café, and a lounge area — kind of like micro-apartments meet the Ace Hotel ..."
Sort of like a post college dorm. Sounds like fun, which is why I'm sure at least the SF units will be highly sought after.
Expect to see micro units in cities across the U.S. in the next few years.