Weekend Reading: The Rise of Micro-Units

Will micro-units solve urban America’s housing needs? This issue was addressed Thursday by Betsy Morais in The Atlantic Cities. Such units, which are being built in New York and San Francisco, run between 150 and 370 square feet, and are designed for the growing demographic, young singles, that’s now causing affordability problems in family neighborhoods. Cluster this group in given buildings downtown, so the thinking goes, and cities begin to mitigate the problem.

But not everyone agrees. These units were opposed in San Francisco by tenant advocacy groups, who thought their size would create inhumane living conditions. As a result there is a 375-unit citywide limit, on a housing type that is badly needed.  Right now, for example, if you’re a single in San Francisco renting a micro-unit, chances are that before this you settled for even worse options—SROs, dingy hotels, crowded hostels, or apartments shared with multiple strangers. A micro-unit where you live alone is a step up from these—and if tenants don’t agree, they can always move back, or to further-out neighborhoods with more space. But most singles know that to live in big cities means sacrificing certain comforts, like nicer apartments, and do so anyway for the luxury of dense urban living. What role is it for bureaucrats to hinder them from having this option?

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