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Originally published February 28, 2014 at 8:01 PM | Page modified March 8, 2014 at 9:14 AM

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Microhousing is big in Seattle, and across the U.S. | HomeWork

Intended to be a way to create affordable housing, living large in a small space is a national phenomenon — and Seattle is leading the charge.

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Q: What does the term microhousing mean?

A: Microhousing, also referred to as stack housing or apodments, has been in the news a lot lately, but what does it really mean? This ultra-small-scale apartment trend is seen mostly in areas where rising populations and low housing supplies have combined to raise housing costs.

Intended to be a way to create affordable housing, living large in a small space is a national phenomenon — and Seattle is leading the charge. Microhousing units are popping up in central Seattle, Capitol Hill, West Seattle and elsewhere.

Less is more

Sometimes called “hostel-style” apartments, micros typically offer 100—300 square feet of living space, including a private bathroom. The units are strategically designed to have built-in comforts and amenities, including a refrigerator and microwave.

Most microhousing complexes feature a shared kitchen, which encourages residents to socialize or get out and explore their neighborhood’s culinary scene. And since they usually don’t include parking accommodations, micro units encourage residents to utilize public transportation.

Affordability reigns

The target markets for micro apartments are young professionals and students, though anyone on a tight budget who is looking for an affordable way to live in a vibrant neighborhood like Capitol Hill or the University District would fit right in.

In Seattle, micro units rent for between $500 and $1,000 per month, which includes utilities and Internet service. By comparison, the monthly rent for a typical one-bedroom apartment in Seattle is about $1,200, according to data provided by Dupre + Scott Apartment Advisors. That amount doesn’t include utilities.

What micro apartments lack in square footage, they make up for in location. The units are often in areas that are bustling with shops, bars and restaurants. In this way, they meet an important demand in the local housing market: keeping people in the neighborhoods they love.

The homes’ minimal heating and electricity costs result in a more energy-efficient living space and a smaller carbon footprint. This can be an attractive advantage for the area’s environment-minded population.

Give and take

Of course, living in a tiny space requires some concessions. Fitting your life into 300 square feet is not without its drawbacks, and residents have to get creative with storage options and when entertaining guests. And because many projects have been built in what are already high-density areas, some neighboring residents have expressed concerns about overcrowding and limited parking.

This concept in housing is not without its detractors. But Seattle is a city where land is at a premium, and microhousing provides affordable, transit-friendly options to those for whom the housing industry has previously not given much attention.

HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to

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