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Whatever Happened to Micro-Apartments in Boston?

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Remember micro-apartments? They arrived in the Boston lexicon 'round about late 2011 with tentative proposals for hundreds of units well under 500 square feet, particularly in the Seaport and other hipper waterfront areas.

These micro-apartments were not mere real estate, however. No, to hear proponents, including elected officials, tell it, they were a panacea for Boston's Thunderdome housing market, where prices and rents scale ever upward amid limited supply. Micro-apartments would provide much needed housing that would not cost as much as more traditional housing. Micro-apartments would be custom-made for young professionals who needed merely a bed, a latte source and a common area to surf the Web. Micro-apartments would change the way Boston developed, even thought about developing. Micro-apartments would make everything O.K.

There was just one huge snag: Micro-apartments turned out to have macro-rents. Yes, the city and private developers would be able to stack more apartments in places such as the Seaport, but they would not necessarily be any cheaper than existing (or new) studios and 1-BRs. In fact, in some cases, Boston micro-apartments would well outpace the monthly rents of comparable apartments in the same trendier area. They were not a panacea to the city's housing crunch. They were... what, exactly? An easier, faster way to build lucrative apartments? Nothing wrong with that, we're not monsters. A cool thing for politicians to mouth as they perpetuate the very policies exacerbating the housing crunch? Gotta get those votes.

In the end, it's not entirely clear. What is entirely clear is that micro-apartments appear to have petered out as a serious consideration for Boston's residential real estate woes. As of mid-winter, the city had O.K.'d some 350-plus micro-apartments (or, as officials prefer to call them, innovation units). That's far from the hundreds, perhaps thousands, that seemed poised to sweep Boston in 2011. At least one thing turned out to be true, though: All of these approved micro-apartments have been in the Seaport. Where it looks like they've gone to die as a Big Idea.
· Micro-Apartments: Boston's Housing Solution Or Developers' Cash Cow? [WBUR]
· South Boston to Get Hundreds of Manhattan Apartments [Curbed Boston]
· Boston Micro-Apartments Confront Macro-Economics [Curbed Boston]
· Hub Micro-Apartments: Follow the Money and the Rest Is Noise [Curbed Boston]
· Here's How Much Micro-Apartments in Southie Could Go For [Curbed Boston]
· Boston Micro-Apartments: Higher Rents, Less Space, Lovin' It [Curbed Boston]