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Micro Apartments! Big Living In a Tiny Space

By Zachary Foisie

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“Tiny Living” is here to stay. From the college kid who rented out a closet just to put a mattress in it to the new tiny home movement popping up, life in a tiny space might be a new trend in the U.S., but humans have been snuggling into confined spaces for ages.

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The tiny house trend is a product of several factors. Rising rents, shrinking spaces, cost of living, mortgages, and even noise pollution are driving people away from the traditional suburbs into smaller (and even remote) spaces. Tiny homes have become increasingly popular in the past few years. Driving this new trend is a community of renters who were fed up with crowded spaces, noisy places, and wanted to scale back on living expenses at the cost of wiggle room.

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Tiny homes give residents just that: A small space with all the amenities of a larger home. Tiny home residents opted for rentals and mortgages, and instead were drawn to real home ownership with a sense of true autonomy. Little homes on wheels do have their drawbacks: Zoning codes, social pressures, commuting distance, land ownership, and scarce loans from a lack of collateral make tiny homes less practical for most people. Arguably the most difficult hurdle for aspiring tiny home owners is land acquisition. Empty land within reasonable distance to city centers with water, sewage, and electrical hookups is recherche.

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Meet the newest kid on the block: Micro-apartments. These sub 400 sq/ft mini apartments set the tone for the downtown micro-dwelling experience. Sure, some may find tiny living in tiny apartments a tad … claustrophobic … but tiny apartments can come stocked with all the amenities, including a washer and dryer, a full kitchen, and plenty of storage. NYC is now allowing developers to skirt the 400 sq/ft minimum zoning laws to build studio-sized micro-apartments.

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Some people have taken it to the extreme, living in illegal “apartments” which resemble something like a small nook. At barely 86 sq/ft, this tiny NYC ‘apartment,’ if you could call it that, takes the cake for the smallest apartment we know of at HomeSuite!

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It’s no wonder why people have opted for this extreme form of living. With rents hovering around $2900 for a studio and $4100 for a one bedroom, demand for affordable housing is through the roof. According to an interactive map from Thrillist and NYC developer Constantine Valhouli, the average prices per square foot to own are as follows: Bronx at $110 - $603 sq/ft, Staten Island at $153 - $489 sq/ft, Brooklyn at $173 - $2,000 sq/ft, and Manhattan comes in at $430 - $3393 at sq/ft.

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Life in a micro-apartment should be far from deplorable, as long as you know where to look. However Curbed, a San Francisco based real estate blog, has an aggregated list of the smallest apartments for rent, some more morally reprehensible than others. Whether you are looking to rent a closet, a tent, or a jalopy-like bunk bed with a desk, San Francisco has no shortage of bohemian living.

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Yet back in New York City, where developers are allowing new development of micro-apartments, developer Stage 3 Properties has intelligently designed sub 400 sq/ft apartments and have found the balance of maximizing storage, living space, and dignity while saving renters money in a confined space. Best of all, these micro-apartments even come with a private balcony! Unfortunately, due to their popularity, these posh micro-apartments have a hefty waiting list some 60,000 applicants deep last we checked.

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Is tiny living for everyone? That question may be difficult to answer but can always be boiled down to personal preference. Some people may prefer solace in quiet neighborhoods. Others seek the comfort in numbers and prefer noise over nothingness. In New York City, it’s social custom to spend more time going out drinking and dining than it is to stay home and cook. Nowadays, kitchens are practically non-existent. Tenants spend less time at home as they do at work and out late.

In New York City, entertaining friends at ‘home’ isn’t expected, whereas in Los Angeles, where public transportation is far from robust, dining at home is the norm. San Francisco residents may forgo the extra wiggle room for other amenities like rooftop common spaces and onsite gyms, yet Bay Area residents might gun for a backyard and less congestion for a longer commute.

At HomeSuite, we are committed to curating a list of appropriate furnished rentals. We promise not to stuff our tenants into closets and instead promise the best short-term leases on the market. We'd love to hear about any avant-garde experiences!

Picture Credits: Ryan Mitchell, thetinylife.com; Stage 3 Properties; Curbed, NY; Max Touchey; Curbed, SF; Thrillist; Constantine Valhouli; dornob.com; Craigslist.


by Zachary Foisie

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