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Boston Micro-Apartments Confront Macro-Economics

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On Tuesday, it was that the rents for micro-apartments might be too damn high.

One of the driving assumptions behind the push for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of micro-apartments in Boston has been that the younger professionals they're geared toward (such as those in the tech and biotech industries) will be fine with sharing lots of space. That is, they will have their functional 450-square-foot pod for their own private use and then share so much else, including perhaps even things like kitchens. Truly? As we've noted, that doesn't seem any less magical thinking than the assumption that these micro-apartments will be any more affordable than more traditional ones.

Besides, young city dwellers already pay a premium for living in the city. It may not necessarily come in the form of more cold, hard cash; rather, it can come in things like sacrificing green space (i.e., a yard) or physical exclusivity (i.e., neighbors stacked on all sides in an apartment building vs. a single-family house in the 'burbs) or quietude (i.e., the argument we awoke to the other day between a cyclist and a driver at a busy intersection; the driver won, with the help of a cop who just happened to be there). Why assume that city dwellers will be O.K. with even higher premiums in the form of less personal space?

Luckily, the tide of enthusiasm for micro-apartments that seemed unstoppably rising in 2011 appears to be cresting. Simply put, micro-apartments are starting to be understood as a part of the larger Boston economy.

Casey Ross, in an ongoing series for The Globe, reports that the public and private sectors seem to be adopting a just-a-taste approach to bringing micro-apartments to Boston, in order to suss out whether they will work: "[T]he city is working with the Rappaport Institute at Harvard University to study the economic effects of allowing smaller apartments in the Innovation District. In addition to the effects on the housing market, the study will examine whether these units help to fuel more collaboration and entrepreneurial activity among residents." Exactly.
· Growth of Micro-Units Will Be Slow in Boston [Globe]
· Like You, Boston Micro-Apartments Can't Escape the Rent [Curbed Boston]
· Are Boston Micro-Apartments for Real? [Curbed Boston]
· Here's How Much Micro-Apartments in Southie Could Go For [Curbed Boston]
· South Boston to Get Hundreds of Manhattan Apartments [Curbed Boston]

Innovation District

1 Marina Park Drive, Boston, MA 02101