Instead of creating taller buildings to cope with skyrocketing urban populations, city planners are proposing tiny "micro-apartments" of just a few hundred square feet. A measure in San Francisco proposes to create hundreds of these apartments, which could increase the population in some neighborhoods by 35 percent. A similar measure would allow micro-apartments in New York City, too. Above, you can see a proposal from Panoramic Interests for the San Francisco models, which are 220 square feet. They can be built for one or two people, and feature a foldaway bed that turns into a dining table.
Up to two people will be allowed to live in the micro-apartments, which legislation sponsor Supervisor Scott Wiener said would help those who want to live alone but can't afford most of the studio apartments on the market.
"To confront San Francisco's rising housing affordability crisis, we must be creative and flexible," Wiener said in a statement. "Allowing the construction of these units is one tool to alleviate the pressure that is making vacancies scarce and driving rental prices out of the reach of many who wish to live here."
But for the legislation to pass, Wiener had to agree to cap the number of micro-apartments at 375. Under the legislation, the City Planning Department will analyze the effects of the new units once 325 of them are built.
"Family-sized housing is important and its development should be encouraged," Wiener said. "But many - including seniors, students and transition age youth - do not need as much space or cannot afford it. These units will be a viable alternative for those who don't want to live with roommates."
The SoMa neighborhood and other densely populated city locations would be the likely location for the new units, which include a living room, kitchen and bathroom. Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents SoMa, said that neighborhood's population could increase by 32 percent as a result of unlimited micro-apartments.
Could people actually live in these micro-apartments, or will they get claustrophobic?
This is a rational way to keep up with urban populations, but my question is whether there might be better ways to use space. Why not give everyone 220 feet of private space in a micro-apartment building, but also provide communal kitchens in the building, along with communal recreation areas? The idea that we all need our own personal kitchens (which take up quite a bit of space here) seems absurd. We could all have roomier micro-apartments if we would just learn to share a bit of space with our neighbors. And who knows? We might socialize a bit more in the process.