Tiny Houses for City Dwellers: The Micro Apartments Edition

Are these small spaces the answer to affordable urban housing?
(Photo: Youtube)
Sep 29, 2013· 2 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Finding affordable city housing seems like an exercise in futility. As more people migrate to urban areas in search of employment, and those who already live there are edged out of the employment market, it seems low-cost housing options are fewer and farther between than ever.

One of the most dramatic examples has to be Hong Kong. The city, whose housing market is more expensive per square foot than New York's, leaves many of its day-laboring families and elderly residents relegated to apartments that sometimes measure just 40 square feet.

Photo: Society for Community Organization

"Micro apartments"—mercifully larger than the one pictured above—are particularly trendy right now in housing markets like San Francisco and New York, especially because they emphasize greener values like "living on less."

But while these micro apartments are cheaper than larger spaces, they're not necessarily "cheap." Still, for those who simply can't afford to meet market demands for more exorbitant rents, alternative spaces remain their only answer for shelter.

Some micro apartments are utilitarian, others are smart and stylish. For better or worse, what follows are some of the smallest micro-apartments in major cities from around the world.

90 square feet in New York City

Professional organizer Felice Cohen famously made headlines in New York when news sites picked up on her story; Cohen lived, she claimed comfortably, in an "apartment" that measured just 90 square feet. Located in the city's Upper West Side neighborhood, her rent was just $700 a month. After five years, Cohen moved out of her micro apartment, but only because her landlord threatened to increase her rent to $1,200.

78 square feet in London

Situated near the tony Harrods department store, this old porter's closet was converted into a micro apartment, complete with a (very small) kitchen and a bathroom. In 2012, it was on the market for over $200,000.

220 square feet in San Francisco

(Photo: Youtube)

Last year, San Francisco approved the creation of 220-square-foot dwellings, as part of a pilot program aimed at addressing the city's affordable housing crisis. Units like the one above are expected to go for about $1,500 a month. Area residents aren't entirely convinced these micro apartments are the answer. Critics say they'll drive up the prices of larger apartments, and will simply further gentrify the city's unique neighborhoods.

2.5 square meters in Beijing


Intended to provide housing for the unemployed and underemployed in Beijing, these "capsule" apartments are essentially stalls with beds and shelves. For recent grads, these mirco apartments at least provide the opportunity to have their own space while staying afloat in an expensive market that's not providing enough employment opportunities.

78 square feet in New York City

We've featured Luke Clark Tyler's apartment before. But this video shows how livable his 78-square-foot space really is. Tyler came up with its design and gets credit for possibly having the most stylishly decorated micro apartment ever.