Too Skinny? Micro Apartments May Be Unhealthy for Renters

Image of a Micro Apartment Unit


Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. While an everyday occurrence, like that morning routine, often yields the same results, there may be an expectation that something new and different may come from it. The headlines that grab us from the blare of the latest news on the TV in the adjoining bedroom may provide that diversion that keeps us from a zombie-like state as we dress.

Shrink that area or vanity counter, slim down the mirror small enough that only half your face is visible, squeeze the TV and you could long for a different result. With nowhere to move about, one might feel like a caged animal.

Micro Apartments Could Cause Mental and Physical Stress

Some experts say that tight quarters and routine inconvenience of living in a 300-square-foot micro apartment unit could be unhealthy – mentally and physically. Reconfiguring the apartment every day for sleeping, eating, and entertainment could wear on residents and make micro apartment living a drain on the body and soul. The problem could be amplified when Murphy beds aren’t folded up and dining tables left down, further cramping that pad.

Add everyday stresses of life, and a resident – or a small family – trying to cope with living in a tiny footprint will become even more strained.

Last year about this time, ABC News revealed photos released by the Society for Community Organization (SoCO) showing how people in Hong Kong lived in apartments as small as 28 square feet – a 7’ x 4’ cubby hole. Most who lived in them are low-income families, elderly or unemployed. They didn’t look happy.

Micro Living Benefits: Affordable and Social

The selling point for micro apartments is affordability, which appeals to younger renters starting careers and more receptive to the types of communal living that offer. In Seattle, $800 will get you about 250 square feet. The low price tag also makes it more attractive to those who earn less, no matter what age.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may be easier in micro apartments that offer shared living spaces − like patios, roof decks and kitchens − which are attractive to younger renters. Having a strong sense of community and being able to make friends and socialize is a healthful thing, studies show. Sharing common interests, especially when kicking bad habits are trying to get healthy, are proven effective.

If residents who live in cramped quarters can at least interact with each other beyond the four walls, that’s a good thing, says health and wellness expert Beth Taylor, who is director of health and productivity at Alliant Insurance Services in Newport Beach, Calif.

“People’s behaviors correlate with the environment,” she said. “(Developers) should really focus on community space where people can get outside, for example, and they can be a part of the community, share camaraderie in the neighborhood. That’s how you create the environment where one resident becomes friends with another, and the other neighbor really wants to stop smoking. So, they help each other.”

Large Woman Trapped in Shrinking Room

Living in Small Spaces Could Lead to Larger Problems

Without a strong sense of community and the ability to move around more freely, lower income residents may have much more of a struggle. Because they earn less money and may not have adequate space to prepare healthy meals, lower income people are more likely to buy food that is cheaper and may not be very nutritious. And people, Taylor says, tend to follow the actions – and habits – of those who they share space with, no matter how close.

“It’s a definite concern, because with the lower income, you not only just have people just living within these environments because they have to, they also have certain other things that make it harder to be healthy,” said Taylor. “They are already battling with their ability to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. They’re already battling with their ability to buy health insurance. And then you compact it by giving them a living space where if their neighbor smokes, they smoke. It’s a problem.”

Dak Kopec, who is Boston Architectural College’s director of design for human health, told Atlantic Cities that stress from being too cramped can lead to domestic violence and substance abuse.

“Sure, these micro-apartments may be fantastic for young professionals in their 20’s,” Kopec told the publication. “But they definitely can be unhealthy for older people, say in their 30’s and 40’s, who face different stress factors that can make tight living conditions a problem.”

The builders and developers likely hold the cards to how healthful micro apartment living will be to the average resident. Think about how much happier people are around others, Taylor says, and how much more expensive it is for property managers to turn over an apartment. The longer residents stay, the better for everybody.

“Why not focus on making people happier so they can stay?”

That may mean putting a little more space between walls – inside or outside the apartment.


(Source of Images: Shutterstock)



Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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