Micro-units are coming

Just ran across this piece on yet another micro-apartment complex going up in Santa Monica, and I’m thrilled.

In case you haven’t run across this concept before: Micro-apartments are very small apartments, in this case averaging 375 sq ft. For reference, a normal studio apartment in a 1920s building is probably something like 400 sq ft, and a normal one bed / one bath unit is something like 550-600 sq ft.

Why do I like micro-apartments so much?

As regular readers know, I’m a very strong believer in density. I believe cities are better when many people live close together. Why? Because people have such a broad range of interests that, when you pack a large number of them together, you allow micro-communities to form, even for interests that are, statistically speaking, rare.

For example, the percentage of people who are  serious coffee fanatics (the kind of hobbyists who bore you at parties talking about optimal roasting temperatures, etc.) is very low. But, if you cram a lot of people close together, there will be enough individual coffee fanatics within that large population to support amazing shops that go above and beyond to deliver incredible coffee. Same goes for other seemingly odd interests like fashion design, comic-book collecting, Indian cooking, etc.

You can see where I’m going with this, right? If you cram all these people close together and allow them to form institutions / organizations / businesses / collectives / etc. to further their esoteric interests, all of us get to benefit from their energy and creativity and passion. That’s how you get amazing coffee, clothes, comic books, Indian food, etc. It’s a direct result of density.

So, what does this have to do with micro-apartments? Living in cities is expensive, because many people want to live in them and there are generally onerous restrictions on development that prevent developers from creating enough housing to fulfill all of the demand. When a city like Santa Monica allows micro-apartments, it effectively loosens those restrictions somewhat, allowing developers to create more, lower-priced units.

And more, lower-priced units means more people, which means more of the things we love about cities.