If you live in Seattle, you may have heard that on Oct. 6, 2014, the Seattle City Council approved a new law that regulates the development of micro-apartments.
The increasing popularity of micro-apartments comes out of the boom in the city’s population. More people are living in Seattle, causing space to become limited (as one might expect).
Seattle apartment developers have rapidly constructed these ultra-tiny dwellings, which led residents to become concerned–the pace and scale at which the apartments were built put off many locals.
The new law aims to address public concerns on how micro-apartments will affect neighborhoods (like yours), and ensures that the tiny apartments are actually functional.
In light of the new law, Rent.com is taking a look at micro-apartments and their impact on those living in Seattle neighborhoods.
What Exactly is a Micro-Apartment?
The law not only sets restrictions on construction, it also provides a much-needed definition of “micro-apartment” (the definition has been way too confusing up to this point). The Seattle City Council lists two categories:
Small Efficiency Dwelling Units: These apartments are between 220 and 400 square feet and can be built anywhere in the city. Each unit must feature at least two sinks. Developers must add three covered bicycle-parking spots for every four apartments the building contains. Also, small efficiency dwellings must undergo a design review.
Congregate Units: Congregate apartments can be as small as 70 square feet (micro indeed!), given that they feature a communal kitchen and living space. Also, these buildings can only be constructed in the most dense areas of Seattle.
Prior to the micro-housing law being signed, Seattle’s Superior Court defined the units as living spaces rather than sleeping rooms. This move caused some developers to put building projects on hold and paved the way for Seattle’s new and more established definition of micro-apartments.
Developers aren’t yet sure what to do with units whose construction had to be stopped, so the city skyline has a bunch of unfinished projects right now—all those cranes can’t be pretty to look at.
The Cost of Going Micro
Some Seattle residents fear (and maybe you sympathize) that the micro-housing movement will become the new affordable apartment option, increasing the cost of family units—certainly not a plus for those who need more space.
Proponents of the dorm-like apartments say that without micro-apartments, many people couldn’t afford to live in Seattle, where rent for a one-bedroom unit ranges from $1,000 to $1,400, depending on the neighborhood (yikes, am I right?).
The micro-apartments go for about $750 a month, which sounds way better for your wallets. Now renters can get a small unit in the area they would most like to live, Capitol Hill and Eastlake being among the city’s most popular neighborhoods, as long as they’re willing to sacrifice space—guess that’s up to you!
While some Seattle natives worry about increasing the cost of rent elsewhere, money isn’t the only concern these small units raise. During the boom of mini-apartments in New York City, psychologists shed light on the issue of mental health.
Micro-apartments are very cramped (to say the least), which can cause those who live in them some serious stress. Experts warn that people ages 30 and older may want to avoid them, and that children need more space to flourish. In fact, some psychologists even believe that living in a micro-apartment can cause increased instances of claustrophobia, alcoholism and abuse (sounds pretty scary).
Of course, if you’re a 20-something living alone, concerns over children feeling at home may not be on your radar.
As Seattle experiments with its new law on micro-apartments, city dwellers like yourself will have access to affordable, albeit cramped, housing. How the law will impact the cost of other apartments is unknown, but many estimate prices to increase.
What do you think of micro-apartments, renters?