Property Management Trends in 2012: Part 3 – Micro Units


Image: Patrick Kennedy in the living area of his SmartSpace apartment, the sofa turns into a bed. Developer Patrick Kennedy has built a prototype micro-apartment in a Berkeley storage warehouse. Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle / SF

Property Management Insider is looking back at the multifamily industry trends of 2012 and how they could affect the industry in 2013.

In 2010, a total of 80.7 percent of Americans lived in urban areas, up from 79 percent in 2000, according to U.S. Census data. Additionally, the population of urban areas grew by 12.1 percent, much faster than the country’s growth rate of 9.7 percent from 2000 to 2010.

According to Stewart Brand during the June 11, 2012, edition of the TED Radio Hour on NPR, entitled The Future of Cities, more than half of the world’s population is now living in cities.

That begs the question: where are cities going to put all these people?

One way is through the development of mirco units or micro-sized apartments.

Major Cities are Answering the Call for Micro Units

Major metros such as New York and San Francisco are taking the lead to develop large numbers of micro units.

In June, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg invited developers to propose ways to turn a Manhattan lot into an apartment building filled mostly with micro units. If the pilot program is successful, officials could ultimately overturn a requirement established in 1987 that requires new apartments in New York to be at least 400 square feet.

Then this past November, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved legislation that would allow for the construction of hundreds of 220-square-foot residential units.

There is No Way I’m Living in a Closet

Micro units are clearly a trend, but who is going to live in these tiny units? From a personal standpoint, I’m not. While I don’t need 2,300 square feet of living space, the average size of an American home, I’m quite comfortable renting a house in the suburbs with the ability to retreat to my Man Cave from time to time.

But the wants and desires of a married Gen Xer are clearly not what cities like New York and San Francisco have in mind. Personally, I think Generation Y will usher in the next evolution of city living.

Are Micro Units the Future of Cities?

As urban areas become more densely populated, new housing designs are clearly needed. And Americans will need to redefine what makes an acceptable living space.

My guess is that Generation Y will be the first to fully embrace the micro unit trend. Today’s young renters are more interested in spaces that encourage community and affordability. They’re looking more for a place to sleep rather than a place to practice gourmet cooking. And many members of Generation Y are delaying marriage, which makes them a better fit for the smaller units.

Gone will be the days of spacious apartments. Just look at Europe. The average home size is roughly half that of America and they’ve been perfectly happy with that for centuries.

What are your thoughts on micro units? Are they the beginning of the next evolution of American cities? Will Generation Y lead the demand for these units?

Micro Unit Articles on Property Management Insider



Contributor, Property Management Insider

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Michael Cunningham is Content Marketing Manager at ProofHQ, and the former Managing Editor of He worked as a social media manager for RealPage, Inc., a provider of on-demand software solutions that integrate and streamline single-family and a wide variety of multifamily rental property management business functions. He is responsible for promoting the company through various media channels, including editorial, print and online advertising, and social media. Michael received his education at Indiana University where he majored in English.

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