In the movie Wanderlust, the characters played by Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd find themselves unemployed and needing to sell their high-end microloft in New York City. When they are disappointed by the lower listing price recommended for their property, a real estate agent informs them, “It’s a studio!”
Is the qualifier “micro” just a fancy description of a very small, over-priced living space? Or is microhousing the best way to make expensive city living more affordable?
The Micro Trend
Microlofts and micro-apartments are one of the latest trends in large cities looking for new ways to create affordable housing for single occupants. According to the New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development, earlier this year, Mayor Bloomberg waived bans on individual housing smaller than 400 square feet to allow for the construction of 55 new micro-apartments. This has caused real estate professionals to question whether the popularity of micro-apartments will spread to other large urban areas. But do smaller living spaces make sense in a city such as Philadelphia, where square footage is not quite at the same premium as in New York or San Francisco?
Who Would Choose a Micro-Apartment?
Micro-apartments may appeal to individuals who prefer to live in urban areas that are close to work and offer nightlife, transportation centers, and shopping. Also, potential city-dwellers ready to downsize to smaller living spaces near cultural and artistic centers, restaurants, and museums tend to seek out this type of housing.
According to a 2011 community survey, the US Census Bureau estimates that 39.8 percent of Philadelphia’s households are made up of one person living alone, compared to a national average of 27 percent. This statistic supports the idea that affordable, smaller housing in certain desirable neighborhoods may work for the city. But how small is too small, and what features are must-haves for potential micro-apartment buyers or renters? Would you exchange an eat-in kitchen for a view of the Kimmel Center? If you were able to walk to work, would you be willing to share cooking space communally? Would you enjoy living in a prestigious Center City zip code if hosting out-of-town friends and family would be difficult because, for size, your studio resembles a dorm room on the campus of Penn, Drexel, or Temple Universities?
According to a recent article in USA Today, New York micro-apartments, which range from 250 to 370 square feet, are expected to cost between $914 and $1,873 per month. By contrast, a full one-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square (zip code of 19103) charges a median rent of $1,383, according to Rent-o-meter.com. In the Washington Square West neighborhood, a two-story one-bedroom apartment measuring around 500 square feet costs about $1,695 per month, including a parking space which rents separately for $195 per month. For those moving into the city from larger living spaces, it is possible to find studio or one-bedroom apartments without going to the extreme of a micro-apartment. Besides, if the rent is a bit higher than …read more
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