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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone!

I know there had been a lot of hub and bub about this new trend in Seattle. But with new buildings and units popping up all over the city, i thought that it might just deserve its own thread.

I was actually very on the fence about micro housing myself. I can see the arguments against renting what is in some respects a fancy dorm room without basic needs and amenities like a kitchen. Not only that but the price, while it seems great, is actually something over 6/ Sq Ft. But i've been looking at some of the buildings and i can see the appeal. Not only that, but i have been considering changing housing needs and a bit of history.
i would argue that human have historically lived in either cities or villages, with suburbs being a aberration of the American Century. And in city single occupancy residency is the norm. What we now call tenements housed many of the working class young men and women who came to cities for opportunity. At some point, probably because of the type of person who was a mill worker in the early 1900's, those sorts of rooming situation were considered undesirable. (But consider that even the Occidental Hotel rented out single rooms for working men.) The trend was to create housing for families. But that just meant that multiple young people needed to band together to rent a place and use it just like a tenement from before, though at more risk to themselves do to the ad hoc legal arrangements they had to enter into in regards to leasing. Now, with a micro apartment i get a unit and situation specifically tailored to my needs as a single renter. If i am in the middle of the city i probably wont cook often even though i am a pretty good cook, and i wont do a lot of entertaining at home, instead i will be meeting people around town. I don't need roommates, the lease is flexible, and i am in a brand new buildings being professionally maintained. As far as i can see, including from a density perepsctive, micro housing is awesome.
 

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Journeyman
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Good topic. I'm a huge fan of microhousing.

I lived in a "micro" (hotel room) for four months in 2008 and also had roommates for several years long ago. The micro was better.

Micros are the only way we can serve the <$750 in-city market without subsidy. Like most housing, it'll go slowly downmarket over the decades, so today's $700 unit might be the equivalent of $600 or $500 in a few decades. (A lot of these seem to open in the $3/sf range, though some can be higher.)

There's not for everyone, but so what? A lot of people are lining up to live in them.

You're right about old-style rooming houses. We killed the old ones with fire codes and zoning to exclude them. Public policy eliminated the market's ability to serve the low end. So we have more homeless, more roommates, and more commuting. It's inhumane, unsustainable, and destructive to our cities.

Now Seattle is piling on regulations and process, making micros a lot more expensive than they were a few years ago. A lot of commentators don't get it at all....design review means a sizeable added cost and development duration, not just a happy little improvement in how the building looks. The recent ruling applying ADA (I don't know the details) sounds like a big increase in cost if it means there's no more exclusion for elevators and bathrooms have to be much larger. And so on.
 

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I was actually very on the fence about micro housing myself.
To me being *against* microhousing only makes sense in the context of if you're willing to live there or not, not whether or not someone else should be allowed to live there. This post is one of the few cases of the former.

I think the concept is great. I've been a strong and vocal advocate against closing the "loopholes" that allow them. O'Brien is set on making them officially legal but may make them severely restricted in the process, and I hope he's at least careful before he acts. Personally I'm a fan of *if it ain't broke don't fix it* strategy of governance, and the process of bringing them into the code will add design review, and countless other changes that may break the financial model that's making them pop up everywhere.

But back down to the small scale. $/sf isn't always the best metric of living space. A suburban warehouse has a very low $/sf, but you still couldn't afford to rent one. The average $850/mo including utilities and basic furniture allows most singles employed in the city to have a decent home in a walkable area, and that's not true of a large 1-bd unit with a lower $/sf.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I am rather amazed at the variety of options when it comes to microhousing, even within the same developers. In some ways i can choose what is important to me, location, parking, size, rooftop deck, and then see which ones work for me. It is great to feel like i have options like that that are all actually affordable.
 

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honk!!!
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I don't buy the price per square foot argument.

First, if $750 is what you can afford, it doesn't really matter what the price per square foot comes out to on another unit if it is more than you can afford or are willing to pay. It is a moot point.

Second, these rents include utilities. Not just W/S/G (which some other apartments include in the rent, but many others charge an extra $60-80), but also electricity and internet, which regular apartments just about never do. Overall, you are probably getting $100-150 worth of utilities included in that rent.

If you take apodments out of the equation, the cheapest studios on Capitol Hill are usually old dumps run by landlords with very negative reviews online. If you rent a studio for $950, add another $100-150 for utilities, you're paying around $1050-1100 for the cheapest studio. What are you really getting for that extra $300-400? A 40 year old oven/stove top and maybe another 125 square feet? And if you're lucky, maybe some kind of infestation, too. It is no wonder apodments are popular.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
What are you really getting for that extra $300-400? A 40 year old oven/stove top and maybe another 125 square feet? And if you're lucky, maybe some kind of infestation, too.
So this! I have been in new buildings and old buildings and i would rather be in a small apartment in a brand new building with ameneties and sound-proofed walls and ceilings than a bigger apartment where you can hear your neightbors breathing.
 

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I wonder if we can make a case against the city for price fixing. I'm hate sue happy people, but at least this would serve a legitimate cause and wake up the city council to the damage their policies are doing.
 

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honk!!!
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http://liveatfootprint.com/properties/

Footprint, one of the two main microhousing property managers, has properties coming online in Portland and Oakland.

Here is a look at Arete, which will be the first microhousing project in Kirkland. The same developer is behind all three microhousing developments in Redmond: http://liveworkart.com/gallery/arete/. With 226 units, this might be the largest one thus far.

Bellevue could use some of these, especially near the college, but also in or close to downtown.
 

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Every time I see this thread, I think it says Microbrewing, and then I get really sad when I realize it doesn't. :eek:hno::cheers:
 

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honk!!!
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I decided to tour one to see what they're really like. They are pretty tiny, and there are some things I hadn't realized (the kitchenette has to double as your vanity, given that the small bathroom has no sink). I still like the idea even though I don't know if I would want to live in one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I decided to tour one to see what they're really like. They are pretty tiny, and there are some things I hadn't realized (the kitchenette has to double as your vanity, given that the small bathroom has no sink). I still like the idea even though I don't know if I would want to live in one.
Yeah i don't think that i would be comfortable in the smallest units. I am going to have a list of deal breakers, and the vanity as kitchen sink is one of them. But i also think that at least living in some ultra density for a year or two will give me some cred if i want to be a planner
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
An interesting article in Curbed. The more i look into Apodments particularly the more excited i get. The other big brand, Footprint, hasn't returned multiple emails to me so i cannot even say which i would prefer. I am hoping for a lofted space somewhere close to Cal Anderson and it looks like i have some good options.
 

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I've always wanted to buy a little pied-à-terre for no apparent reason. I wonder if those same people will feel better if these are condos? Or will they still complain for taking their precious street parking...
 

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That's why I'm surprised there aren't more of these in the CBD. I bet a lot of attorneys and managerial types would pay $1,000/mo or $200,000 for something sized like a hotel room to crash in on busy worknights. That would augment the obvious moderate-income market.

But a lot of the wealthier group would demand parking, or at least a deal in a nearby garage. Probably reserved spaces rather than shared. While the narrow floorplates of a micro building suggest small lots, parking likes bigger lots. So hotels fill some of the market, and non-micro apartments fill some...
 

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Wouldn't attorneys working downtown already have parking? I can imagine getting in your car to drive two blocks away in L.A. or Bellevue, but this is Seattle.
 

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Many in Seattle are taking a stand against rise of micro-apartments
August 28, 2014
http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2024414112_microhousing1xml.html

The Times has a long article on the microhousing debate, with one section featuring City Councilmember Mike O'Brien's new regulation plan:

O’Brien’s plan would split future micro-apartment development into two categories.

New micro-apartments across the city, including in low-rise zones, would be smaller than 400 square feet and would be considered individual units. They would be need to average 220 square feet throughout a project, with a minimum of 180 square feet.

But micro-apartments in mid-rise and high-rise zones within “urban centers” and “urban villages” designated for density years ago could continue to be built smaller than 180 square feet under a “congregate housing” model, with nine or more units using one kitchen.

Since 2010, most micro-apartment projects have been in low-rise zones within urban centers and villages. New projects there would fall under the first category.

Under O’Brien’s plan, both categories of micro-apartments would be subject to design review based on square footage.

In low-rise zones, the city would mandate one parking space for every two micro-apartments rather than one space for each unit, as it currently requires.

But in transit-rich, high-density zones, there would continue to be no parking requirements.

“My hope is that we get to a spot where folks say this allows for more housing to be built in the city, but maintains the desirable fabric of our neighborhoods,” said O’Brien, who lives in Fremont. “That’s the path we’re trying to walk here.”

It’s a path, however, that some developers would rather not follow.

“Mike is trying to compromise in a classic Seattle way but it won’t work,” said [Smart Growth Seattle director Roger Valdez].
 
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