'Tis been few more gabbed-about topics in recent years in our fair region than the micro-apartment (or the micro-home, if you will). Back in late 2011, the topic arrived with a vengeance as developers planned hundreds of Manhattan-style shoe boxes for the Seaport and Innovation districts in Southie. The move had the enthusiastic backing of City Hall, with then-Mayor Tom Menino proposing altering Boston's building regs to allow for construction of new apartments under 450 square feet.
Some, in fact, would be as cozy as 375 square feet, meaning roughly three new Seaport micro-apartments could fit in the 1,500-square-foot pool of Boston Globe and Red Sox owner John Henry's Brookline mansion. The idea behind the proposed micro-apartments, and micro-apartments generally, was that they would help alleviate the Boston region's notoriously low housing inventory. Build a bunch of tiny homes and fill 'em quick. Especially with young people who want to be near the action and don't need a lot of froufrou in their non-work lives. The only problem? The micro-apartments had macro-rents. That is, most of them appeared to equal if not exceed rents for existing studios, even 1-BRs, thus croaking the main argument for their construction (and for the city's backing of said construction). Still, micro-apartments-as-housing-panacea lives on, stumbling forth from its intellectual tomb every so often as policy-makers and private developers try, try, try to figure out how to satiate the region's demand for housing.
In the arc of this trend, then, we find the definition of micro-homes/apartments in Greater Boston. Basically, they're relatively small places, under 500 square feet, say; and they generally charge market-rate rents. We would add, however, that officially, in Boston proper at least, there are a couple of hard rules for new micro-units:
· Developers can construct what are called "innovation units" of fewer than 450 square feet, but only in the Innovation District and in buildings with plentiful shared space such as a roof deck.
· "Metro studios" as small as 450 square feet can be built elsewhere, so long as they're within a mile of public transit.
Again, though, two things: The rents on these metro studios and innovation units are often comparable to those of existing studios and 1-BRs; and there are already plenty of similarly sized studios and 1-BRs around the region.
So, what, exactly, makes a home micro in Greater Boston? It's sort of like the shorthand definition of obscenity: You know a micro-home when you see it. Like this Cambridge shack.
· How to Live in a Boston Micro-unit [Globe]
· South Boston to Get Hundreds of Manhattan Apartments [Curbed Boston]
· Boston Micro-Apartments Confront Macro-Economics [Curbed Boston]
· Boston, It's Time to Admit You Have an Inventory Problem [Curbed Boston]
· Like You, Boston Micro-Apartments Can't Escape the Rent [Curbed Boston]
· Boston Micro-Apartments Are Real Estate Vampires [Curbed Boston]
· Here's How Much Micro-Apartments in Southie Could Go For [Curbed Boston]
· Cambridge Shack Sells for Way Over Its Asking Price [Curbed Boston]
· Our complete Micro-Apartments coverage [Curbed Boston]
· Our Micro Week 2015 archive [Curbed Boston]