The Micro-Unit Housing Phenomenon

Monday, July 23, 2018

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Micro-unit housing and rental options have gained momentum worldwide for almost the last decade; most substantially over the last four years. Micro-unit housing has gotten so popular that there are now several TV program series about them. They go by a range of names, such as Tiny Homes, Nano Suites, Micro Housing, Micro-Unit Apartments and more.


As Caitlin McCabe said on The Inquirer Daily News, “For those who have adopted the lifestyle, big living is out; living small, simple, and organized is supreme.”


Micro housing can be an ideal option for students, young professionals, married couples making the transition into home ownership or for those spending limited time at home.


There are some common misconceptions about micro-unit housing that can be dispelled.


1. It is much too small.


When it comes to space, micro-units closely resemble on-campus housing dorms or by-the-room rentals. Most dorms and room rentals offer less than 200 square feet per person, compared to micro-units generally ranging from 100-400 square feet. By-the-room rentals generally have limited access to other areas of the home or share with several other students; therefore, all personal belongings are contained in a student’s bedroom. In comparison to a bachelor or studio apartment, most micro-units are only about 1/3 smaller in square footage.


2. It is less functional and unrealistic.


Micro-units are often professionally designed to have maximum functionality by taking advantage of built-in or hidden features, compact storage space, customized furniture and extensive shelving options. Architects regularly generate new ideas to get the most out of the space.


3. It provides a low quality of life.


Sometimes it can be a struggle and costly to find housing in a competitive rental market or metropolitan area, especially for younger generations. While completing a degree or holding an entry-level job, it can be very difficult to afford rent and general costs of living in a safe neighbourhood. Although micro-units sacrifice space, they generally are of outstanding quality, have valuable amenities and are located in desirable areas. Most micro-unit communities also offer an abundance of spacious common areas.



Most say the key to living in small housing accommodations or micro-units is being selective with how the space is used and general organization. Living in micro-units can prevent clutter and avoid collection of unnecessary items. Some individuals have gone to the extent of saying that it can avoid hoarding or help those with hoarding tenancies. But undoubtedly, individuals with many acquired or collected possessions would find living in a micro-unit to be unrealistic.  


It has been argued whether micro housing is a niche market or a solution for low vacancy rates and unaffordable living costs. There has been an increase in single-person households in many markets, so this could be another factor. There are many articles online that debate all sides. Thus far, we have observed that it’s primarily common in low vacancy rate and unaffordable markets such as San Francisco, Boston, New York City, British Columbia, and more.


To assist students combatting Vancouver’s housing crisis, the University of British Columbia has a pilot project of introducing 70 affordable, self-contained Nano Suites for 2019. Most students have showed a positive reaction, especially towards more affordable rental rates.



An area that supports micro housing as a niche market is Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Micro Boutique Living is a successful micro-housing company that started in 2011 and has continually expanded. Its units have an eye-catching and functional set-up, as seen below.



Some now argue that micro housing has become a movement – it has brought people together to support a cheaper housing alternative and more eco-friendly option. Micro-units provide a lower cost of living, due to decreased utility consumption and rental rates, as well as a reduced carbon footprint.


Although micro-units aren’t for everybody, they can be a great, affordable option for student renters. As well, the benefits don’t stop with tenants – they can also keep profits strong for property owners. With smaller unit sizes, developers can offer an increased number of units than traditionally.


Micro housing is making its way into more markets and only further time will tell whether its a permanent niche, solution or movement.


SEE ALSO: Great Ideas to Decorate Small Student Housing Spaces

The Team