The construction of microunits — residences smaller than 500 square feet — in Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, D.C., and New York City has influenced developers in secondary markets to jump on the bandwagon and prompted groups to create new “microhousing” concepts.
In Orlando, Florida, a subsidiary of Euro Group USA proposes a project that would feature 52 microhousing units — smaller units that share a kitchen. The concept is similar in design to student housing properties, where three or four roommates share a kitchen and living room but have their own bedrooms.
Kehoe North West Properties is about to break ground on a 123-unit project in downtown Portland, Oregon, that will be comprised entirely of microunits. The development is amenity-laden, with a private courtyard, indoor bike parking, exercise room, dog wash station and community room with chef’s kitchen. The project will take slightly more than a year to complete, with an August 2016 opening planned.
The construction time frame for a microunit project is one reason these properties are becoming more appealing to developers. Because a number of these deals will be built via modular construction, projects can be completed roughly a year after groundbreaking, which reduces a developer’s construction cost risks.
The short construction window can also allow a developer to deliver a project prior to a wave of upcoming deliveries. Lastly, projects featuring microunits require a small development site, a glaring positive considering the lack of infill sites in major metros.
In Boston and New York City, government is encouraging and pushing for more microunits via pilot programs. In June, a 55-unit project will be constructed in Manhattan and feature 250- to 360-square-foot units. The dwellings will be prefabricated in Brooklyn and are part of the “My Micro NY” program. Thirty-three of the units will be market-priced, with the remaining units leased as affordable.
Boston’s City Hall is encouraging the development of sub-400-square-foot family units, similar to what is being proposed in Orlando.
While most of the nation’s largest apartment builders will avoid microunits deals, more will incorporate some 700- to 800-square-foot units into upcoming project starts.