Some people love having room to stretch out in their homes, whether at a long dining room table or on a sectional sofa. But a number of urban dwellers are taking the opposite approach. They’re moving into micro apartments, or micro units, according to the Urban Land Institute (ULI). These super-small apartments are one type of “tiny home,” Inverse.com notes. Some tiny homes are standalone structures like a portable cabin on wheels, while others take the form of micro apartments in a multifamily building.
A micro apartment is usually defined as a studio apartment, typically smaller than 350 square feet, with a fully functioning kitchen and bathroom, according to ULI. To put that in perspective, a micro unit is typically larger than a one-car garage (which may be about 264 square feet) but smaller than a two-car garage (which may be about 400 square feet), ULI notes. A micro apartment may have more square footage in one city than another. For example it might be 300 square feet in New York City, but up to 500 square feet in Dallas, says ULI.
Who’s choosing these ultra-small spaces? They’re popular among singles and Millennials, ULI notes. In particular, the institute found that micro-unit tenants tend to be men under the age of 27, but there are some couples, roommates and older singles as well. Among renters ages 25 to 34 living in conventional apartments, 25 percent would be interested in living in a micro unit, says ULI. When you look at tenants under 25 living in typical apartments, the interest goes up to 34 percent, ULI reports.
The smaller spaces may attract those wishing to lower their carbon footprint and minimalists who keep their material consumption in check, as the Guardian notes. But there are other motivations, as well. Many micro dwellers are drawn to the trendy, walkable neighborhoods, often in a city’s urban core, ULI says, adding that they are willing to live in a compact unit because of its access to desirable city life outside their building.
One potential advantage of these smaller apartments may be cost. ULI reports that micro units may have approximately 20 to 30 percent lower monthly rent than conventional units. They are often located in relatively expensive housing markets, where a one-bedroom or even studio apartment may be out of reach for a person’s budget, the institute notes. Additionally, utility costs are often very low — sometimes around $15 per month, ULI notes. And some micro units come with built-in furniture, potentially reducing the cost to furnish the apartment for renters.
However, on a square-foot basis, micro units typically cost more, ULI adds. A NeighborhoodX comparison of New York City rentals, for example, found that per square foot, a micro unit can cost nearly twice as much as a larger studio apartment.
The relatively higher rents sometimes reflect the fact that many micro units are located in multifamily buildings with lots of amenities and communal spaces, including pools, outdoor decks and gyms, ULI reports.
A micro apartment isn’t for everybody, but it may be a good option if you want to live in a modern urban environment — and don’t have a lot of stuff.