Micro-Housing Units Have Many Big City Residents Worried

Many residents in larger cities are upset by a recent micro-housing boom, as many worry that they will make the cities even more crowded.

As 10ft by 10ft "Apodments" pop up around Seattle, residents are fighting back, asking for less of them to be built before the city is overrun by its tenants.

The tiny apartments consist of a small living area, a kitchenette and a bathroom. They go for as little as $500 a month, including utilities. 

Many Apodment dwellers are young singles, retirees and students. 

Judy Green, 67, rents one for $850 a month. Her apartment features a sleeping loft, private toilet and shower, a kitchenette with a sink, fridge and granite countertop, a skylight, two windows and a sliding-glass door that leads to a small deck.

She can also access a shared rooftop that has a view of the Space Needle. 

"I think this is a wonderful thing," she said.

Seattle isn't the only city with micro-housing projects. They're all over the country, especially in larger cities like New York and San Francisco where affordable housing is a rarity.

Many residents are unhappy about the micro-apartments. In Seattle, officials have permitted 48 micro-housing projects. If they build all of them, housing would be provided for 2,300 people. 

There's an estimated 19 developments already renting or being built within just one square-mile area. 

Campaigners against the units say they crowd too many people together and are not compatible with some neighborhoods. They also do not encourage people to put roots down and circumvent planning laws.

"They're maxing out what they can do under the land use code," Patrick Tompkins, a resident of Seattle neighborhood Capital Hill, said. Some projects in his neighborhood have replaced family homes without much warning.

While the units have been around for at least three decades, it wasn't until recently that they started taking off.

"It's really coincided with the recession. Apparently, there's pent-up demand," Bryan Stevens, with Seattle's planning department, said. 

Carl Winter, who opposes the projects, said older homes are being taken down for people who might only be around for a few months.

"We're not concerned with who these people are, but how many there are. This is a massive increase in density," he said.

Winter is one of many lobbying Seattle City Council for a moratorium. Winter believes Seattle is providing an incentive for builders because they are not enforcing regular rules about building. 

Builders of micro-apartments are claiming they only have six or eight conditions, which defines a dwelling unit, so they can bypass the need for a full design and environmental review. These reviews are usually required for large-scale developments.

They're also using the total number of sleeping units to take advantage of a tax exemption scheme by reserving some units for low-income people. 

Tim Burgess, council member, said the city is losing tax revenue.

"What's troubling is the city looks like it's twisting the rules to favor developers, and that's not appropriate," he said. 

Sources: Daily Mail, Seattle Magazine


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