Written By Tobias Sagan Katz |Founder and Lead Designer of Katz Box, Adaptable modular home system.
With the increased development of urban communities, Micro units might be the key to a new diversified housing option.
Worldwide there is a growing trend in urban development and with it, we are seeing increased popularity in micro units. But it isn’t a new concept, only a refined solution targeted to a broader demographic of people.
We all have heard stories of a friend or cousin who has moved to a big city only to be confined to a shoebox room in a household shared by a variety of roommates. Forced to come to the realization that with rents rising, the immediate solution is to share space or sacrifice needs like location or amenities.
But as we begin to look at the trend of micro-apartments in the recent 20 years, we are forced to look at the stats and the findings. In most urban environments, with the majority of renters being singles or couples, single bedroom and studio apartments are increasingly popular and competitive to secure. Though with the sacrifice of less square footage, tenants are likely to find micro unit rents to be 21-30% less than their studio competitors (ULI 18).
While there is not a formal definition of how we can define a “micro-unit”, the Urban Land Institute describes it as a, “purpose-built, typically urban, small studio or one-bedroom using efficient design to appear larger than it is, ranging in size from as little as 220 square feet up to as much as 450 square feet,” (ULI 6). With a space larger than a single car garage (and certainly smaller than a two-car), the micro-unit relies heavily on its design to exemplify functionality and minimalism.
Attractive to a range of tenants, the main demographic of renters appear to be young professionals, students, singles and retirees, who see a downsized apartment as an opportunity to live more sustainably and choose quality over quantity. In some cases, this shift can allow renters to choose a location over price so they may maximize their lifestyle and budget. When interviewed, nearly 24% of traditional renters said they would consider micro units, but only if location and storage are maximized (ULI 20).
For developers, their added units per lot and increased ability to attract tenants are reasons for choosing to build micro, but it is important to note that they should proceed with thoughtful planning & execution in order to guarantee satisfaction and long term success.
Each development, though it is micro, must be treated as a full-service community. What it lacks in unit square footage, must be made up with fresher, newer amenities. The addition of physical community gardens, rentable event spaces, fitness centers, and even an on-site parking garage can help sway a potential tenant to make the switch. However, the most successful micro developments will implement most, if not all solutions to attract renters. Furthermore, they should also host a dedicated staff onsite at all times in order to maintain a consistent, flourishing community.
When planning and developing a micro unit property, a thoughtful design must be considered.
In the past, many micro-unit buildings were constructed to the same standards as traditional buildings or via property renovation, creating a bandaid effect, and additional problems long term.
As a designer, one must take into account the differences in buildings and prepare to combat them. Additional soundproofing must be built into each wall, and the layout of the units should flow seamlessly, and deliver on functionality as well. Due to their confined size, without the conscious effort to increase natural light, create open space, and harboring the ability to increase your footprint, the apartment can begin to feel claustrophobic and become emotionally and mentally taxing to renters.
Progressive cities across the country have begun taking strides to regulate and maximize the potential of adding micro units to the rental landscape. In cities like Seattle Washington, the Department of Construction and Inspections have started to modifying existing building code in regard to small units, to promote health and wellness. These modifications include the requirement of natural light, standardized appliance sizes, and mandatory amenities. Additionally, The Department has commenced creating a standardized ordinance tasked with the regulation of future units. With cities across the country following a similar model for success in diversifying the rental industry.
In the midwest, we are working in tandem to maximize our landscape without sacrificing renter’s needs by navigating obstacles with inventive solutions.
At Katz Box, we believe in small living within a modular timeline and have created a system to promote growth in-unit. By doing this, we provide a building system for individuals and developers that allows them to scale their home as needed. Our system is designed to be implemented into urban centers to allow for improved fixtures and lifestyles by providing the ability to add and subtract units, similar to building blocks. In a Katz Box Development, a tenant would be able to rent or own their unit with the ability to purchase an “add on” or expansion of the home when needed. Ultimately, this provides renters newfound freedom to, literally, move/grow their home in the future.
Currently, Katz Box is working with our first clients to design and prototype innovative rental housing options in the Midwest and are looking to expand our work into new cities and markets. If you have a need for modular and methodical design and are looking to expand your portfolio into an exciting new option, please contact Tobias Katz ([email protected]) for inquiries and new projects.