- While smaller than average residential spaces, also dubbed micro-units, have gained acceptance in some areas of the U.S., regulations are hampering more widespread construction of the segment, according to Architect Magazine.
- The initial push behind micro-unit development in the U.S. was the desire to provide adequate, modern housing for in-need populations like those with mental disabilities and homeless or low-income people. Developers now are expanding the potential resident base to young professionals who are running up against minimum square footage requirements, floor area ratios, local building codes, parking space requirements and other regulations that promote lower-density developments.
- Because local officials are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring new regulations meet resident safety needs, building codes can lag behind the latest design trends by as much as a decade. According to architect Lawrence Scarpa, architects should be advocates for changes to building codes and help shape policy.
Micro-unit housing has found somewhat of a foothold in cities where renters pay a premium for square footage. But these projects haven't taken over the rental landscape and have not yet turned into a boon for contractors.
Location plays a great deal into their success. In New York City, Carmel Place was an instant hit in a city plagued by high rents and a lack of affordable housing. When the development began leasing in late 2015, there were 4,300 applicants for each of the 14 units designated as affordable.
Now a developer in Long Island City, New York, is about to offer two- and three-bedroom family micro-units ranging in size from 490 square feet to 735 square feet, according to Curbed. The 57 units share communal, social areas, as well as amenities like a fitness center and a courtyard. Developers are hoping to appeal to young families and those who share space with roommates.
In Houston, it was a different story when Houston developer Novel Creative Development's 24-story, 550-unit microcondo project did not strike the intended chord with its millennial and empty nesters target markets. The company made only a small dent in presales to investors, so it embarked on a new strategy to convert the project into a condo-hotel where owners can rent their units for short-term stays.