San Francisco experiments with 300-square-foot micro-apartments
SAN FRANCISCO — The tiny apartments are touted as “affordable by design.”
New York City has launched a pilot project to test them out. Boston is doing it, too.
But in San Francisco, where a growing number of residents are being priced out of the housing market by a revived tech economy, city leaders are considering the smallest micro-units of all.
At a minimum 150 square feet of living space — 220 when you add the bathroom, kitchen and closet — the proposed residences are being hailed as a pivotal option for singles. Opponents fear that a wave of “shoe box homes” would further marginalize families of modest means who are desperate for larger accommodations.
The Board of Supervisors recently tabled until at least November tweaking the city’s building code, which requires newly constructed units to be at least 290 square feet.
The number of micro-units that could be built under the proposal would not be capped, although critics are pushing for controls on the experiment.
Patrick Kennedy, a Berkeley, Calif.-based developer who in November will unveil a building with 300-square- foot units in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, has said he hopes to build several thousand even smaller models.
The mini-apartments’ schematics include window seats that convert to spare beds and beds that transform into tables.
“You could obviously build more of them if you don’t have to do them as large,” said Kennedy, adding that pricing would be determined after he sees “what the market does with our 300-footers.”
Supervisor Scott Wiener, who drafted the legislation, said smaller units will mean cheaper and more plentiful housing options.
With a tech boom underway, thousands of new hires have been snapping up San Francisco’s rental stock.
The micro-units will probably go for $1,200 to $1,500 a month, Wiener said. According to the real estate service RealFacts, an average studio apartment in San Francisco now goes for $2,075.
So in a metropolis where 41 percent of residents live solo, Wiener said, the units would fill a niche by allowing people to stay who might otherwise have to take on roommates or leave town.
But some critics worry that the swank model units getting kudos from officials might not be the norm.
In Singapore, where thousands of shoe box homes for families are either completed or in the pipeline, redevelopment authorities recently raised the minimum size to 755 square feet because of congestion.
The revised approach is fodder for doubters here.