OPINION: Can micro housing solve affordability problems



Liz Henderson

A solution to long term housing affordability?

So will micro units become one solution to long term housing affordability? As the barrier to entry into the housing homeownership market continues to be an issue, I can see micro units absolutely continuing to have a strong demand. In cities where sustainability is already widely accepted, such as Seattle and San Francisco, these types of units will be easier to sell or rent out because residents have already psychologically adapted in part to urban living. They recognize the benefits of such high-density and mixed useneighborhoods. The major positives to living in a micro unit versus a regular sized units are the lower long term cost whether owned or rented, the ability to live alone, and access to an array of amenities such as proximity to grocery stores, restaurants and bars along withaccess to work.

In less dense markets areas where sprawl is common, micro units will be a harder sell. Cheaper housing is not sufficient. Location drives the micro unit demand first and foremost. Areas that place heavy reliance on driving and won’t find any significant appetites for micro units. The biggest challenge for developers in dense urban markets where micro unit demand is strong is usually land use controls that prevent such small units from ever coming to market. In a paternalistic way, voters and in turn, land use regulators or politicians demand that everyone live in minimum sized units, whether affordable or not.

The micro unit definitely has a place in large dense cities where affordable housing continues to be a major problem. This is not to say that people won’t eventually move into 2-3 bedroom houses when they are ready to expand the family. But we are seeing millenials delay home ownership because it has taken a while for the economy and their job outlook to improve. One this occurs, some millennials will leave the micro-unit market and upgradeto larger houses most likely. But when this happens we will still see demand for micro-units for the next generation.

Liz Henderson is currently studying at the University of San Diego and is an official curator and blogger for MIPIMWorld.

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