permitted for Northwest Thurman near 23rd.
(Image: Footprint Investments)
The tiny house movement for apartment dwellers has arrived.
Think 200 to 300 square feet, and a kitchen shared with five similar units.
It’s a new milestone for the Portland area’s off-the-charts rental shortage, the third-tightest in the nation in the third quarter of 2013. And it might also be the key to a new model for apartment living that’s designed to deliver relatively affordable rents for tiny units in highly desirable neighborhoods.
The new buildings, sometimes called “aPodments” or “micro-apartments,” typically offer lightly furnished studios including a private bathroom. In order to attract tenants despite the small size, they’re located in areas with one of the hottest commodities on the real estate market right now: excellent active transportation. Portland’s first such building at 2250 NW Thurman St. proudly proclaims its Walk Score, Transit Score and Bike Score (88, 52 and 93, respectively).
And because each cluster of five units shares a kitchen, they duck Portland’s controversial new requirement that large apartment buildings include auto parking whether or not future residents are likely to use it.
In the City of Portland, one in four rental households doesn’t own a car.
Local transportation advocate Doug Klotz, who opposed the new rules, called the plan an interesting way of avoiding the parking minimum, which doesn’t kick in until a building has more than 30 apartments.
“It’s not 50 apartments,” Klotz wrote in an email last week. “It’s 10 five-bedroom apartments.”
The 56-bedroom building on Thurman Street has already received its building permit, The Oregonian’s Elliot Njus reported Tuesday. Last month, KATU reported that a similar one is proposed for 1525 NE 41st Avenue in Hollywood. Njus reported Tuesday that a group of neighbors are considering a legal challenge to the Hollywood project.
According to KATU, the Hollywood units will rent for $650 to $1000 each — cheap for a unit in the area but far more than usual on a square-foot basis. They’ll also offer on-site bike parking, but no car parking.
Units like these have been shaking up the Seattle housing scene since 2008.
“Some people want them — need them, in fact — and they provide housing affordably, with a tiny ecological footprint, and in walkable neighborhoods,” Alan Durning of the Seattle-based Sightline Institute wrote about them last year. “Occupancy is reportedly near 100 percent, because the price is far below that of studio apartments nearby.”
Developer Jim Potter makes a similar case.
“We’re at a price point that no one else is delivering,” Potter told The Oregonian. “It’s not for everyone, but it’s a choice, and we like offering choices.”
The Real Estate Beat is a weekly column. Read past installments here. We are looking for a sponsorship partner. If interested, please call Jonathan at (503) 706-8804.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.
This is genius, really. If the shared kitchens are large and nice (I hope they are) I’ve often thought I’d rather have access to a big shared kitchen than the ridiculously tiny one I have now, and my apartment is bigger than these by not-a-lot (400ish sq ft). That’s one of the big advantages of house-sharing, a nice kitchen where you can really cook stuff. So this is one of the benefits of house-sharing, plus a bit more privacy. And maybe some community if things work out well, too.
The downside would be that a lot of people are not that awesome at keeping shared spaces nice (I’m not sure how you’d deal with supplying it, but maybe they have some ideas/rules on that), and you probably don’t get to choose your kitchen-sharers like you choose housemates.
Gotta say this is sure a nice smooth slide into Agenda 21.
You haven’t seen nuthin’ yet, my friend!
And you’ll brag about paying too much for it when you do if you’re a trendy.
Not me…I’m a poor sap who lives wayyy out in east Portland in a single family home. I couldn’t afford one of these trendy closets! : )
you say agenda 21 like it’s a bad thing
We’re in the midst of full-on micro-housing development in Seattle. I like the concept of affordable, dense urban housing very much. I’ve visited a few units in Seattle. I have been underwhelmed by communal shared spaces and in particular by bike parking that takes users up and down stairs. Developers are in it to maximize profit, not improve urban life.
Be attentive to details that make micro-housing bike- and human-friendly Portland friends and it will all work out.
The price isn’t right. $650 can easily find a studio apartment. But I guess that is the price tag associated with new development. If they could convert an existing building/house into something like that, and price it at like $400-500, that’d be interesting.
$650 for a studio apartment? In Camas, Tualatin, or St. Helens, perhaps – or in PDX out past 160th Ave in neighborhoods where you’d be more car dependent. Craigslist doesn’t turn up anything else at this price point in a close-in, high Walk Score Portland neighborhood.
I just went through apartment hunting last year, and there were endless studios in the heart of NW (21st!) in the 600 range! I ended up with a one bedroom very close in SE (17th) for about 800.
In 100 year-old buildings, maybe.
I’d rather live in a 100 year old building than a tin-and-drywall habitrail any day.
I rented a studio in NW for $435/month, but that was back in 2003. From 2004 through 2008, they increased the rent ~$100/month PER YEAR. Now, I wasn’t dumb enough to stay there, I moved after 2 years. But I keep checking the price on that unit I rented – its now $840 a month for a 350 sq ft apartment.
If you don’t believe me, this is the place: http://www.kbcmgmt.com/currentrentals/nw.html
(the Francis Ct.)
Remember the 3 Rules of Real Estate: location, location, location
On the other hand, I don’t see how this developer can charge that much money for an apartment off NE Sandy. Its not exactly downtown or NW Portland…
In ten years the bleed over from inner eastside to downtown and to nearby points east will render definitions of “downtown” obsolete. New properties promoting chic urban density will be in such high demand from the estimated TWO MILLION expected to move here in that time that those who can affôrd to relocate won’t balk at the price. The chic-i-ficaion of Portland continues apace.
I am curious to know how many people who end up in these micro apartments continue to live car(e)-free. Certainly, that issue is a hot button all along Division, especially with the owners of Division Hardware. What has been the experience in Seattle? I like the idea a lot, and wonder if the ideal matches reality.
a hot-button issue for a minority of SE loan-owners. imo, most of us want increased density and parking scarcity.
By most of us, you must mean the usual posters on bikeportland – still a small slice of Portland.
I own a home in Hollywood, two cars, and I want increased density in the city. If we don’t add density, prices will just increase more. We will end up like SF, where only the wealthy can afford houses in the city.
Or Portland will become less trendy over the next 10-20 years and the population will plateau?
It’s a reasonable possibility.
Portland is one of 5 major metro areas located on the West Coast of the USA. We have significant trade with Asia. Portland will likely continue to grow as the asian economy quadruples over the next 30 years.
How much of Portland’s economy is wrapped up in ocean trade with Asia? (not being snarky, I’m really curious). Can’t say I’ve ever heard Portland mentioned in the save breathe as Seattle or Long Beach.
Ah yes, let’s bash on people for owning houses……
mentioning home loans is not “bashing”. but i can see how a hundred billion dollar subsidy of predominantly upper income mortgage holders might make one defensive.
Did you honestly not mean that as a swipe? Predominantly upper income? Anyone with decent credit and some levels of financial sense can own a house in Portland while making $35-40k. (and for many people with mortgages under $150k it’s not a given that itemizing (and taking that subsidy) is better than taking the standard deduction) Let’s not get all class warfare over this.
“Let’s not get all class warfare over this.”
Um, too late. Sorry. Hard not to think in classist terms when developers get tax breaks galore while a single mother of two can’t get food stamps because she earns $10 a week too much to qualify.
Portland is filled with a million disparities like this, and the only thing this lovely housing unit and the ceaseless gentrification of eastside Portland will do is drive the wedge between haves and have-nots deeper. How can people NOT consider class divides in this discussion?
That statement was regarding a debate about the merits of homeownership. There are plenty of poor folks in town who own their own home.
The mortgage interest deduction and capital gains exemptions represent hundred billion dollar subsidies of predominantly wealthier loan-owners at the expense predominantly poorer renters. Just as subsidization of roads by taxpayers is relevant to a conversation about sustainable transport, these taxpayer subsidies are relevant to conversations about sustainable housing.
I agree about those tax structures, and those two conversations are not simply analogous but integrally entwined, and they embody even wider discussions over distribution of wealth and power than just housing or transportation.
But, to your and Beth’s responses, investment in real structures is inherently difficult (impossible?) to do at low income levels; good structures are expensive. That’s not just a 20th/21st century US observation, it’s pretty much been that way since cities grew up from mud huts. Historically in nearly all urban contexts, when housing intended for the poor was built it was done so out of government directive, and the overwhelming results were not good…shoddy, inhumane, often punitive. They created slums and did not maximize the money invested. Traditional housing for poorer classes came on the heals of the wealthy, as the wealthy moved to larger, fancier digs and the poor filled into the former well-built stock. (The rise-and-fall of auto culture and the McMansions dependent on it will not play well in that history role.)
I’m not anti-government by any stretch, in fact I’d like to see greater central urban planning roles in most US cities (Portland/TriMet isn’t too bad), but when it comes down to informing decisions about exactly what plan and style and material and price point gets built within such a planned framework, market forces influencing profit-motivated investors has a pretty good track record for long-term urban success.
So, along with tax reform, how about reforms in investor structures? Open limited partnerships to lower incomes? (micro partnerships?) Cooperative investing? Anyone remember savings-and-loans and hometown banks?
And to the case of these small apartments, who’s the developer, lender and owner? Are they local?
Are you saying that people who take out loans for a house are wealthy?
When I bought my home in 2004, I was rolling in it!
I made $34,000 that year. That may be considered upper income… in some 3rd world countries.
And don’t dare disclose the square footage of your home either!
How do you figure it is a minority for loan owners(aka home owners)? I think you have things backwards if you believe most of us would like increased density.
Yes, I would personally like to see more efforts by the buildings to have tenants sign paperwork saying they won’t have a car. I think this would go a long way to easing tensions with disagreeable neighbors.
We need to roll out street parking permits a la NW Portland to the rest of the city. If you’re in a no-parking apartment building, then you can’t get one. It’s fair, current residents of these areas aren’t impacted adversely, and we already have the means to implement it.
Everyone pays taxes, and everyone is entitled to parking in the public ROW. How would you feel if residents in Laurelhurst banned all non-permitted parking, and only wealthy residents there could park on the street?
Well, the point of low-parking buildings is that we increase human density without increasing car density. If everyone who lives in a low-parking building just parks their car on the street, then the code changes that allowed low-parking buildings are just a handout to developers, saving them the cost of building parking spaces. I don’t believe that’s the intention, do you?
You said “everyone pays taxes, and everyone is entitled to parking in the public ROW”, but I would say that doesn’t square with the current permit parking system that is already in place in NW and industrial SE. Clearly the public interest isn’t always served by unrestricted street parking.
“If everyone who lives in a low-parking building just parks their car on the street, then the code changes that allowed low-parking buildings are just a handout to developers, saving them the cost of building parking spaces. ” Bingo, Dan. A study commissioned by BPS for Richmond showed 75% of tenants have cars.
These depressing little spaces are just a developer’s dream to get rich.
Look who funds local candidates- all of Nick Fish’s recent contributions are from developers.
Dave, do we really want to empower landlords to control their tenant’s lifestyles? Do we trust landlords that much? Just a thought.
I’m not even saying landlords would be directing it. It think it should come from the City as a requirement for some of these specific types of structures.
Again it’s not controlling anyone’s life, it’s presenting options, and if you would want to live in a place like this then you would agree not to have a car. No one is forcing anyone’s hand. Tenants would be free to look elsewhere for housing.
Dave, I usually agree with you, but I would offer that conditioning tenancy on a car is not workable and could set a bad precedent for conditioning tenancy on other lifestyle factors.
From a practical standpoint, how are we going to track which tenants get cars, and then there is the burden of evicting them. Believe it or not, the landlords have no stake in enforcing the no-car ban, because they don’t give a p–p about parking- just their profits.
We need to exert more control over density, and stop the nonsense over no-parking apartments. Provisions must be made for renters’ cars.
See I don’t view it as a lifestyle factor, but a need for storage space. Just like how you agree that you don’t have a storage unit when you move into many apartments.
Again I’m not saying make it landlord dependent, but get the city involved and make it come from zoning laws. Perhaps enforcing parking permits in other neighborhoods (east side) would allow this to work, as you just wouldn’t let those in these types of units get permits.
The micro housing trend in Seattle is doing a spectacular job of upwardly readjusting the rents of everything that isn’t micro housing, to the chagrin of everyone except developers and landlords.
I can imagine. “Oh, a 400 sq.ft. space WITHOUT a kitchen is renting for $700? I guess my 700 sq.ft. rental WITH a kitchen is worth $1,200.”
I have to say, I really don’t believe that theory. Landlords base their rents on what the market will bear, which is largely based on how scarce rentals are. Here’s a more likely thought process: “Hmm, my last similar vacant apartment rented out for $900 in less than 24 hours, with 50+ applicants. I bet I could up the price for this one from $900 to $1000 and still get plenty of good applicants and a good renter.”
They use information on what other similar rentals are charging, too – but there’s no way that me putting my (theoretical) mid-Southeast garage-turned-360-sq-ft-ADU up for rent for $1500 (and not getting any interest) would push up prices in Portland. The main determinant of rental prices is what price the landlord can get the unit rented for. This is a function of how much money renters have and how desperate they are for a place to live given the scarcity of rentals here.
On the margin, building these micro-apartments will make rental prices here rise more slowly because some people who used to compete for $800-$1000 one-bedrooms will opt for $700 nicer studios. That will decrease the ability of landlords with one-bedrooms to increase rents.
Yes, your one apartment may not. But if the market is flooded with hundreds of these types of rooms, I could see a future where all other rents also increase.
How the heck does the micro housing trend do that? That makes no sense. You are taking correlation (this happened after that) and turning it into causation (this was caused by that).
My first place in Madison was a converted victorian where the upper floor was designed just like this with the exception that there was a shared bathroom as well. A once a week cleaning service for the public space was included in the rent. It generally worked if everyone kept their dishes under control…cough…cough…
I live in SE and drive 2 x month, why in the heck do I NEED car parking? I’m fortuneate to have a driveway, but if i didnt, i’d probably ditch the car. Not everyone needs a place to park. Lets not let NIMBYism rule the roost. These micro apartments will drive density and vitality to each of the neighborhoods they end up in.
Replacing a single family home with a 50 unit building sounds good to you? If you were living right next to the development would you still be so psyched to bring “vitality” and density to your neighborhood? Also, if someone were paying a mortgage and these gems went right next door what do you think would happen to the value of their property? There is alot more to consider than cool terms like “car free” and “vitality”.
I know you weren’t asking me.. But figured I’d chime in. If one of these went in in my neighborhood I would be thrilled. I think cities are better places when a lot of people live together. It makes things much more interesting from a social perspective, it helps build community, and from a transportation point of view it is a vital ingredient in creating places where cars are not king. This was always just one of my hunches in the past, but in the last year I have spent time in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and other cities where people live closer together and in smaller spaces. I loved those cities! Just my two cents.
To be fair Jonathan, he said “right next to your house”, not just in your neighborhood. I think we can all say abstractly that we like the idea of these, but it’s really hard to say what our true reaction would be like until they actually build one.
These building (like it or not) will be drastically changing what were just small neighborhood centers of almost suburban areas (this describes most of the east side) into more downtown like cities. Is that something we as a city are okay with? I definitely don’t have any answers.
I would welcome a development such as this directly next to me, but zoning wouldn’t allow it. I suppose I could get five shared units next to me, but that would be even less of a big deal. I happen to like most of my neighbors, which includes renters, and welcome more. Not sure what the big deal is.. I also have a single-family house with a yard – only because I like to garden, not because I crave privacy.
Fair enough, but I think many people (maybe a majority) would disagree, and would not want a four story apartment building 3 feet from their property line. At least one that was replacing a single house. I can’t say I would be enthused about it, but I live a bit further out and it will be a long time before anybody wants build these kind of units out here.
I would like a few of these lining SE 82 in Montavilla to block the road and highway noise and make the area more walkable. It’s nearly impossible to cross right now because there is not enough foot traffic and people are a-holes in car – don’t stop at crosswalks for people and honk to be rude, when you’re nearly crossed.
I lived in a 168sf studio in Berkeley with a mini kitchen and bath. I would have done anything for a big kitchen on occasion. I loved my place. Homey and I spent my time outside the house mostly in the community. It makes you a better community member honestly because you DON’T focus on making your home a castle that you never need to leave. You don’t spend your time cleaning all the time or buying crap to fill your life. We have a 360sf house for two now in the SE. Love it!
$650 is too much though. In my Bay area 168sf studio (still same rent) $650 included wifi, utilities, large private yard with hot tub, free laundry, and an off st parking spot…..I was block of the main street – of the most heavily walked yuppie area.
Perhaps Spencer doesn’t believe that one person’s concern for his property value should outweigh 50 people’s need for housing. And nobody likes to live near a construction site, but if your home is on a block that’s zoned for multi-family housing, then you should be prepared for a development such as this.
If you like high density, you can live in areas like The Hurl or South Waterfront. But I’m with Mike in thinking that perhaps not every close-in Portland neighborhood needs to have that kind of density, uh, I mean vitality. I understand Jonathan’s argument, but you can still have good community and transportation options in a predominately single family neighborhood.
If you don’t like density, you can live in Gresham… See? It works both ways…
Very funny. So if I don’t agree with you and your view of an ideal neighborhood, I have to move away from my house in inner SE, because there’s no tolerance for diversity of opinion on density. Brilliant.
No, I don’t actually believe that, I was just taking your comment and reversing it. I’m surprised you didn’t catch on…
We all need to compromise on these things. If you don’t add housing where people want to live, the city will continue to sprawl outward, increasing commute times, congestion, road fatalities, auto usage, etc…
We have some of the worst congestion in the country and bike mode share not growing for 5 years in a row- so what we have been doing for the last ten years isn’t working.
I notice Seattle a tie for number 8, but definitely don’t see Portland in the top 15.
Not sure about that. Per capita VMT has been dropping for the past 10 years. We do rank fairly high on congestion, but congestion is a silly way to measure success of a transportation system. Congestion is demonized because it increases commute times, wasting potential productivity, right? So, average commute time is a better measurement, and we do pretty well compared to other cities of our size:
If you think we have some of the worst congestion in the country, you need to get out more. Most of the comments I hear about how “horrible” Portland traffic is come from people who don’t leave the state much, and haven’t spent much time living elsewhere.
Having previously lived in Seattle, I can tell you that Portland traffic is nothing. NOTHING!
and parking scarcity in portland is nothing compared to that of seattle and sf (where most neighborhoods require permits).
There was basically zero residential construction in Portland over the past 5 years. Since we weren’t really doing anything, no wonder the numbers for transit didn’t change!
Adding housing for increased density is fine, but if the objective becomes to make living space allotted per person, smaller and smaller, that’s not such a great advance. 200-300 sq ft doesn’t sound so good to me. Build those residential towers a bit taller and give people a little more room to spread out, without charging them an arm and a leg for it.
Road congestion is bad in the Portland Metro area on numerous thoroughfares and highways. In the comments of people that seem to dispute this, I’m not seeing what they perhaps consider to be the benefits of downplaying the seriousness of this congestion by comparison to worse congestion in other cities.
Cities have congestion. Density creates congestion if you rely on automobiles for the majority of your transportation needs, because automobiles are huge space wasters. There are two main approaches to auto congestion: allow it to happen and create alternatives, or destroy the density of your core city by expanding roads and freeways, and grow outward. You can think of it as the Vancouver, BC vs. Houston, TX approach. Where would you prefer to live and bike?
“Cities have congestion. Density creates congestion if you rely on automobiles for the majority of your transportation needs, because automobiles are huge space wasters. There are two main approaches to auto congestion: allow it to happen and create alternatives, or destroy the density of your core city by expanding roads and freeways, and grow outward. You can think of it as the Vancouver, BC vs. Houston, TX approach. Where would you prefer to live and bike?” Chris I
Not in either of those two cities. The point about congestion, is that the Portland Metro Area has it now, and the fact congestion is worse in other cities doesn’t really make the congestion in the Portland Metro Area, better.
Build housing and communities that don’t oblige the use of motor vehicles to get from here to there, and in turn, people may be less inclined to rely on automobiles for the majority of their transportation needs. Not necessarily though, because many people like using or need to use a motor vehicle for making even short trips.
Unless the community includes the employment as well as the residence, car ownership, motor vehicle congestion, and urban sprawl is likely to continue in the Portland Metro Area. In Washington County, planning is ongoing to have South Cooper Mtn become another development from which people will likely have to drive to where they work.
“…and create alternatives, …” Chris I November 7, 2013 at 6:21 am
Alternatives? Good, but on their own, micro apartments don’t seem likely to eliminate people’s desire to own and use motor vehicles to meet their travel needs.
Some people commenting here have alluded to taking to some possibly draconian measures to prevent people residing in this ‘economical’ type of housing, from owning and, or driving a motor vehicle, for their day to day travel needs. Whether people in the city would be prepared to support such measures, is interesting to think about.
Apparently, quite a number of people living in NW or The Pearl specifically, despite having their neighborhoods fairly well serviced by mass transit…being walkable and reasonably easy to travel by bike…having a bunch of stores that sell the basics, and a bunch of stores selling all kinds of non-essentials…they still want to have and drive motor vehicles.
A 200 to 300 sq ft apartment isn’t quite a shoebox apartment, but it’s getting there. In fact, the prospect of having to live in one is probably the kind of thing that motivates many people to make enough money so they can buy a standard sized lot with a house out in the burbs. Some place where nearly every modest area of green space between existing houses hasn’t been subjected to the kind of infill that allows only little scraps of greenery to remain.
The “Hurl”? Is that supposed to be some kind of witty insult of the Pearl District? Pathetic.
And to think, the sense of entitlement in Seattle about preserving low-density and free street parking is even *worse* than this.
Uh, if you look at the city’s map, there is high density zoned along MOST commercial streets in Portland. Williams, Vancouver, Mississippi, Hawthorne, Belmont, Burnside, MLK, Milwaukie, Powell, etc. In fact, most construction going on right now is not in the central city.
I think the question of what any of us would make of one of these going up *right next door* to our house is a reasonable and interesting question. Where I part ways though is with this question:
“what do you think would happen to the value of their property?” Since I don’t have any plans of ever moving or selling this house I live in, I don’t give a damn about imagined changes to future property values–mine or anyone else’s. It drives me crazy how many interesting, important, dynamic proposals get derailed, or are attempted to be derailed, by those twelve words. If this is about livability, and I think it should be, then the abstract ‘how much can I make off moving somewhere else’ question should be off the table, should carry no weight. Part of what I take to be livability is stability, is not moving all the time. A neighborhood worthy of its name includes people who have lived there a long time, who know and appreciate and have contributed to its history.
I honestly don’t know what I’d make of one of those very large apartment buildings were built next door or across the street from my house. It’s a tough one. I like the idea, think it is a good direction for the city to move in, but recognize that in a traditionally not very dense neighborhood (inner SE, for instance) this does represent a big jump on the blocks where these are going up. Luckily some of the large apartment buildings that are now being built are not ugly and don’t include all sorts of car infrastructure. For me those are two big strikes against these buildings. Without those two I’d like to think I’d welcome a building like this next to mine (SE 30th & Hawthorne is an example).
And since Mossby dared us to divulge the square footage of our house, I’ll accept: 660 square feet detached SF for three people.
Good point 9. I don’t think I would be opposed to a unit like this next to me due to property value issues. A house is a place to live, it shouldn’t only be viewed as an investment. More just livability issues, like the fact that I might not have ANY sunlight coming into my yard windows due to the height of the new structures, for example.
sounds absolutely miserable. That’s twice the size of my office at work.
You have an office? Lucky you.
Can i live it when you’re, um, not using it?
most people I know I have offices of some sort. 200 square feet is about 4 cubicles put together. I got over “dorm” living in college.
Fortunately we live in America, where people can choose different things, based on their personal preferences. Personally, I prefer to own a small home, but I don’t judge those that choose to have a smaller footprint.
I guess you know different people than I do. I don’t have an office. I work retail. Some people I know work in a large room divided into cubicles, some in industrial and warehouse buildings, some work on jobsites. I would doubt that the majority of Portland residents could say they have an “office” at work.
my cubicle is about 36 square feet and it’s plenty big for office work. If I lived in 200 square feet, I wouldn’t expect to be holed in my place all the time. Which means I’d actually get out of the house, be social, and participate more in society. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. You may not like “dorm” living, but if there’s a market out there for it, then so be it and good for the developers for offering housing choices.
Aww, thats nice. Most people you know… most people I know are students who would kill to have 200 sq ft of their own space without having to share a studio apartment!
When I was a student I lived in a stepvan. 46 square feet. Yoohoo! For the following ten years we (2 of us) lived in apartments that were 350 square feet. It was all great. It isn’t the quantity but the quality that counts.
Oh yeah?! Well, when I was a student, I lived in a Tauntaun. 7 square feet.
AND I had to carry it to and from school – uphill both ways so the carrion eaters didn’t take my home.
Not for everyone, but choice should rule!
In my constant effort not to go broke on housing, I’ve lived in some pretty scummy rentals, some no bigger than these. (Because I was also determined not to go broke on transportation, I never needed a parking space either.) Before I bought my tiny house in a bad neighborhood, I’d have leaped at the chance to rent a nice new place like this. The possibility of a little community in the shared kitchen, with the requisite bedroom-and-bathroom privacy, is very appealing. I suspect these units will fill up quickly and stay filled up.
So basically you are signing up to be roomates with 4 units filled with people who you don’t know, or have any time of relationship with. Can you imagine the arguments about cleaning the kitchen? This will be good if they offer month-to-month rental agreements, for people who move into town and need to get a job and find a better place to live.
Needs a Blade Runner micro-kitchen… or was that 5th Element?
Either way the act of not having so much room for all your stuff makes you realize just how much your stuff owns you. A decrease in rampant consumer consumption might be good for America’s soul if not for our economy that is addicted to such wasteful and unnecessary spending.
But oh think of all the wonderful passive aggressive notes about dirty dishes, moldy food in the fridge, etc, etc.
This idea sounds like a nightmare. 200 square feet? I cannot even fathom how berzerk I’d go if trapped in such a small space.
10’s of 1000’s of Portlanders in their 20’s through their mid-30’s already do this.
I am all for this. When I was in college I lived in a 5th wheel trailer in a small section of campus. The living space itself was probably smaller than 200 sq. feet. just enough room for a table and a bed really. In the center of the park there was a common kitchen and living room space where the residents could hang out, cook, have meetings, do homework, things like that.
Living there was one of the happiest times of my life and maybe the only time in my life I’ve ever really connected with my neighbors and had a true sense of community and common purpose.
Now that I’m a little older I want to live in a larger space, but I can picture people in the same position I was back in the day really enjoying smaller and simple living like this.
I think everyone’s missing the point. Greedy developers are maximizing profit by creating barely livable spaces and charging premium rents. These places are smaller than college dorm rooms folks. Fun? If you’re an 18 year old freshman, but an adult? It’s disgraceful greed and should be boycotted.
This sums it up perfectly. There are people desperate enough to live close-in that they’ll put up with this, much like there are people desperate enough for decent internet they’ll put up with Comcast. But it’s just grimey to think about. 200 square feet with a share kitchen, for 650$?? I’m sure utilities and fees for cleaning services will be stacked on as well, pushing it into the low 700s. Just sad. If you learn to apartment hunt well you can find 1 bdrm in NW for just 100-150 more. I locked in my rent, a top floor 750sq ft on nw 21st, for just 875/mo. Awesome neighbors too.
I agree the price seems too steep. But believe it or not there are people out there who actually WANT these kind of housing units. If there weren’t they wouldn’t be filling them.
Check out the bunk drawers for rent in Japan. Literally beds only. I would compare them to sardine cans if it were PC to do so. . .
Perhaps we too could build some highly efficient nuclear power plants like TEPCO to keep ’em nice and toasty this time of year? Since we love such vibrant, high density, space efficient um. . .housing.
Do you have any evidence that developers profit more from these developments than they do from a similar level of investment in greenfield housing on the metro fringe?
Nobody is building on greenfield sites on urban fringes anymore. One of Oregon’s largest homebuilder, Renaissance Homes, changed their business model to strictly infill housing after the recession hit.
Terry, where did you go to college that you had a dorm room bigger than 200 ft^2?
Such an easy accusation. “Greedy developers”. Well, um.. real estate development has always been about maximizing profit. Unless there’s some new land being discovered in the center of Portland that we’ve never known about, this type of development is necessary to provide housing choices at a variety of price points. If your choice is to have more space and pay less, then find an older unit which wasn’t built with today’s labor rates, building codes and current cost of materials and city fees. It’s that simple.
The point couldn’t be more clear with the fact that a single family house stood in these locations. How much do you think that rented for? Probably $2000-3000 a month and 3-4 people lived in each? Meanwhile, there would be 50+ other people competing for existing housing stock elsewhere in the same area and driving up rents there too. Believe it or not, but these types of developments on the low-end of the market help keep housing supply met and keep rental costs down. I’m all for it!
Location be damned, that price is outrageous for the size! And you don’t even get your own tiny kitchenette…
Don’t get me wrong, I love the density, but you can rent a whole house for less than $1000 if you live a little further out (I’m not even talking suburbs).
Like Chris I, I own my own home and two cars, but I support increased density in the city. It increases vitality and liveliness, helps moderate prices, and ultimately becomes a self-reinforcing trend bringing increased walkability and transit to neighborhoods. I know we can handle more density here in Brooklyn, even though we already have one of the highest rates of rentership in the city.
I say this even though my family doesn’t have off-street parking for our two cars, and we may will eventually have to ditch one — though density probably won’t force it for a decade or two, since we’re on a pretty quiet street that’s mostly zoned R1, so we’ve got time to adjust.
Those who worry about increased density in their single-family-home neighborhoods can relax, and remember that most of these developments will be along arterials or (as in NW PDX) already-dense neighborhoods, not quiet neighborhood streets. If the idea of density in the city bothers them that much, the popularity of suburbs is starting to decline and there are plenty of houses available out there.
I think these micro-apartments are an important part of the diversity puzzle, but I wouldn’t want them to become the dominant type of apartment. Developers must love the profit margin, with no included parking and per-square-foot prices WAY beyond anything you’d see for larger units. For the record, my family is comfortable in 400 square feet per person (living space, excluding storage), but we would not be happy with <300sf each, nor would the majority of people. I do think <300sf and a shared kitchen will work for many young singles, and I'm glad to see this development AS LONG AS developers still keep building 600-800sf units (lower profit margin for builders, and also in short supply!) for couples and young families that need a little more space.
It’s not just the microapartments that are entering the density debate though. Even in further out neighborhoods the skinny houses and lot splitting going on all over the city are VERY hot topics at many neighborhood association meetings. Many people think they break up the character or feel of the neighborhood, and just don’t fit in with the other houses. I have to admit two that went in on an old yard lot a block away from me are pretty ridiculous Towering 3 stories over the small single floor home next to them. Felt bad for the guys that just bought the smaller house, as these new home were built in just the 6 months since they moved in!
Portland has A LOT of discussion and decisions coming it’s way on density, growth and zoning.
I sure as hell hope we don’t need to discuss density much more. It’s getting old. We have adopted goals for the city and region. We know what it takes to get there. Some people complain about everything. Some people can’t handle any change. Do we need to hold a series of discussions everytime some gadfly gets angry over something they don’t like?
Oh, I think these conversations are going to go on for a loooong time, and yes they are going to come up every time something new pops up in terms of density. As I’ve said elsewhere I welcome increased density, but a lot of people (and not just the occasional gadfly) have knee-jerk reactions to it. Many of them can be convinced of density’s value, but not without discussion.
Those who think they oppose increased density are going to need to get used to it happening around them anyway. But on the flip side, those who support increased density are going to need to get used to the conversation.
Do these new houses take up the whole lot? I have seen some infill that looks like it will heat the neighborhood up- trees cut down, lawn covered up by McMannsion. Nothing green about a yardless 3000k foot house with three bathrooms replacing a cabin with a garden.
Yes, most of them do (esp. in the case of split lots). There are usually 2-3 feet at most on each side of the house to the new property lines. VERY minimal yards. So in many cases you had a house that was probably previous 1200 sqft max, turned into 2 houses that are usually 2500-3000 sqft each, on the same plot of land.
I know some on my neighborhood association are VERY fired up about the loss of trees issue. I do know that developers/builders are now required to plant some new trees, but those will take decades to get to the maturation of the trees they replaced.
I wish they’d just put in 1200 sq ft row houses (say 2 stories) that were affordable and allowed backyards. The towering 3-story skinny house is so ridiculous on so many levels, not the least of which is that houses that shape should share party walls so that your heating bill drops by 1/3.
Agreed. By limiting the square footage and number of bathrooms on infill houses we would also keep them affordable. And, when the earth starts to bake people can live without air conditioning. Some of the new developments will be unbearable in the summer without air conditioning- what’s so green about that?
I like the sound of the micro loft more than the skinny house. The skinny house is a cheap double decker mobile home and nothing more. I look out at the back of one right now. Its gross. They only have to make the front nice. So in a 1story neighborhood we now have this nasty thing looming and they are desperately trying to farm the 5ft edges of the lot they have and complaining about my trees shading this tiny area. They look out into my yard all day because they don’t have on of their own. I essentially pay for their scenic view. I think they would have been happier in a 400-600sf home, they are old and the stairs are going to kill them soon in the 2000sf cracker box.
With the micro loft its in a denser portion of Portland, not outer SE where public commutes are longer and everyone has a car. There is no expectation that everyone will have a yard in inner SE. Yet, I don’t think a 4 story building should be permitted next to a 1-2 story, unless its on a heavily trafficked road and in these cases it should be strictly maintained that privacy to neighbors is maximized and the facade must be high end on all sides. With larger development like this you can demand more exterior quality because the profits are higher – you can’t get this with the cracker box skinny houses because it’s just a simple lot split.
What we need is neighborhood design review. Micro-dorms are not helpful, IMHO. The neighbors have no right to complain about your tree unless it poses a safety risk to their property. There is some dis-satisfaction and buyer’s remorse with the no-lawn skinny houses.
“I do think <300sf and a shared kitchen will work for many young singles…"
Watch that ageism. Not everyone who is single is young. Not everyone who gets old needs more space.
Anne, I think it should have been clear from my language that I was speaking in generalities, and it’s safe to say that the majority of people who will be interested in these will be young and single. I’m quite well aware that there will be many exceptions, and my wording was specifically intended to convey that there would be many outliers that don’t fit into the general pattern.
Any accusations of ageism are way overblown. I know a number of people who are not young but are single, and might even be interested in these apartments. But I also have observed, being middle-aged myself, that even those non-young single people I’ve known have generally been interested in more privacy and maybe a little more space, and been less interested in sharing space, than when they were decades younger. AGAIN, I personally know people who are exceptions to this, but I still think it’s safe to say that the lion’s share of demand for these units is going to be among young, single people.
Can we put a moratorium on the word “vitality” as a coverup for piling a bunch of desperate baristas into a shoebox for an insane amount of money?
Considering that your post is chocked full of loaded terms like “baristas” and “shoebox”, I don’t think you are in any position to complain about terminology.
Oh yes, “barista”, such a loaded term 😉
“Can we put a moratorium on the word ‘vitality’ …”
No. It’s not a coverup for anything. By vitality, I mean lots of restaurants and shops within walking distance, as is happening in a lot of neighborhoods around town. This kind of vitality, BTW, is still pretty lacking in Brooklyn (mostly due to the lack of mixed-use zoning, as I understand it), and I would welcome lots more.
A) These should be called “rooms” not apartments
B) Any development built with “low car” or “no car” easements should be rent controlled. I don’t believe they will be ant cheaper in the long run, maybe just slightly more available.
LOL “ant cheaper”. Freudian slip, I’m guessing 😉 These are indeed pretty compact living spaces, but if there’s a market for it, why not? I do think the “I’m going to buy in a no-parking building and just park on the street” loophole needs to be plugged.
And when the economic model breaks and the building owner can’t rent these and can’t convert them to another use, they will end up as flop house rooms at very low rent. I’m really glad that these aren’t in my neighborhood! !
That’s when Air B’n’B will swoop in and save the day 😉
You might look at the Sightline Institute (daily.sightline.org) articles starting Nov 5, 2012, on Legalizing Inexpensive Housing, to see how “flop houses” (SRO’s?), boarding houses, and other institutions served a need in the market, and were depricated with terms like “flop house”, and gradually legislated away, leaving inadequate quantities of “low income” housing, and perhaps leaving homelessness as the only option for some people.
The growing maturity of the Portland market is that new product niches are developing…to fulfill a market need for privacy with affordability. While trying to balance the goal of vitality vs. the simplistic output of per lot density. (Density fails at vitality when a building is cut off and surrounded by parking.)
The key point of the article is the conversion of up to 320 sq feet of development space historically set aside for parking (parking stall plus access aisle space ~320 sq ft) and reallocating it for other common space or resold as housing space.
This would be great if code allowed conversion/ rebuild from existing structures like old garages, the affordable small housing units could be built throughout the city on individual properties. In most case though, the city does not allow this. Small units only in developer built multiplexes. The rules on ADU’s are very arcane and they typically favor car housing over people housing in lower density neighborhoods, which is where we SHOULD be placing higher density living creating vibrant mixed income residential neighborhoods. Instead, our archaic residential housing zoning code forces the “affordable housing” into multiplexes.
Good point Doug. I’ve lived in Portland quite a few years, but I’m now realizing that we don’t really have much in the way of accessory units like you’re talking about. When I lived in Seattle they were all over the place (generally referred to as “Mother-in-Law” apartments and abbreviated as “MILs” in rental ads). I was in my 20s at the time and lived in two different such units (one in a converted basement, one in a converted upper story). Some of this was during a period when the rental market was as tight as it is in Portland today, and things would have been a lot worse without this option.
I didn’t realize Portland’s lack of ADUs/MILs was due to city regulations. Funny, Seattle makes it almost impossible to run a food cart, while Portland has always had lots of them and now they’re an important part of the urban fabric here. Meanwhile, Portland makes it almost impossible to set up a MIL apartment, something that’s taken for granted and an important part of the urban fabric up there (and we could benefit from). Maybe we could learn a few things from each other.
What ever happened to quality over quantity and what kinda person pays way over 20 bucks a day for a tiny bedroom and private potty?
There’s a lotta brainwashed people in Portland if this nonsense is popular.
It sounds like you’re advocating larger units (higher quantity of square footage) instead of smaller units in a “quality” location, from a transportation standpoint (that is, quantity over quality).
I don’t think these renters are “brainwashed”, they just think differently from yourself. If you don’t want to live there, don’t. Some people want to live in certain neighborhoods, but don’t need a lot of space. That’s their choice, and it’s probably better for the environment on several fronts: materials used in construction, energy used to heat/cool, and energy/fuels used in transportation.
Does anyone here ever complain about “greedy developers” building houses on greenfield sites in Beaverton and Gresham? Developers are adding a lot more housing outside of Portland than they are inside. Why the double standard?
Yes, people who live near those greenfields definitely complain about “greedy developers.” Almost nobody likes change in their backyard; we’re all greedy for things to stay the way we like them, including me. Sadly, that’s impossible, so I think the only option is to try to make sure the new things are things we like, too.
A healthy city has housing options for all its citizens, from micro to large family to multi-family, and different price points for all options. This option seems OK for one end of that spectrum at one price point (med/high). It could become a slum if it were ghettoized by only other micros (especially cheap ones) being built for long ways around it, but if other options are available (especially mixed-option in the same structure) then this is just one among many choices, and if appropriate commercial is built in, then the overall mix of the neighborhood will support a healthy community.
Parking is a non-issue at this point; market forces and changing city policies are working (if slowly). Deal with it when/if the time comes.
I’d ask Jonathan to reflect a bit on his examples (“…Manhattan, Brooklyn, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and other cities where people live closer together and in smaller spaces…”). I agree about some value of “density” coming into play in the vibrant parts of those cities, but I’m not so sure that 20 sq. meter apartments are the driving force in either the density or the street life, there. What I’ve seen in those and similar cities is that lack of garden space, less motor vehicle space (driveways, parking, street size), and solid blocks of multi-story and mixed-use for large areas are much greater contributors than squeezing personal space below comfort levels, and even in those places 20 sq. m. is considered pretty tight. (also consider ceiling heights on old v. new construction, and how that affects perception and reality of space)
still twice the cost of sharing a 5-bedroom apartment with friends… I’d never rent one, and I really want to move to a small bike-friendly apartment…
For those passionate about this topic I highly recommend this Stranger article from earlier this year.
Best of luck to the tiny apartment dwellers. I’d think it would be almost unliveable. Probably too noisy to sleep. If there’s a smoker in the mix then you might as well all smoke. I’m just guessing based on many years of renting 1 bedroom apartments. Can you imagine what it would be like in one of those cracker boxes if your neighbor has a stereo with a deep base? And cooking odors to boot. Good luck to them, I will pass.
Why should we go along with the idea that these are “apartments?” when they are zoned as dormitories? We better look at the landlord tenant rules here because the tenants may have fewer protections. After all, dorms and communes can discriminate. Your points are well taken. In fact, you may want to google another flophouse in the area known as the Portland Pensione. Those are some great reviews- not.
Good point about landlord-tenant rules, Mamacita. When you rent an apartment you have all sorts of rules defining the playing field and (ideally) protecting the interests of both tenant and landlord, not least of which are EHO laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, gender, age, etc. As a result, smart landlords are careful not to discriminate based on ANYTHING other than credit and rental history.
Contrast this with shared-housing arrangements. If you’re renting out a room you want to interview the candidates and pick the one who’s the best fit for getting along. The owner darn well wants to be able to veto any candidate they want, and anti-discrimination (and many other landlord-tenant laws) don’t apply.
I can’t imagine that full landlord-tenant law would apply when there’s a shared kitchen involved, so how is this going to work really?
In a more perfect world where people had the brains to control their population, apartments of any kind would be outlawed as would town homes and any other type of dwelling where you share walls with another dwelling. It’s only because people can’t control their breeding that these things were invented. There really is nothing good that can come from increased density – it’s a lose-lose for all involved.
Some folks above have mentioned HOA’s – I live in one now and was on the board for a couple of years. My advice is to avoid HOA’s – you lose control of your living costs when you are in an HOA; cut your own grass and paint your own house – it’s very easy for HOA boards to spend other people’s money causing the dues to rise. I’ve tried it both ways and once we sell our townhouse will never belong to an HOA again. They shouldn’t be legal.
Really? So New York City, London, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Boston etc. etc. have nothing good about them related to density.
That has to be some sort of top 10 list for the most cretinous statements ever in BP comboxes and I’ll nominate this one.
The entire population of the U.S. should be spread out evenly throughout the country. We need exactly 83 people per square mile. Any more would be increasing density.
But I like to see the smoke from my neighbor’s cabin…
Prices have gone up A LOT in the last year, even in old buildings.
This was supposed to appear somewhere else. Why can I successfully use every other forum/comment section on the planet, except BP?!
The more housing options, the better.
I see the Oregonian has put in their 2 cents ($1.00?) this morning.
Is Portland on a slippery slope to slum-dom? It seems that we are creating a housing choice for a new permanent underclass. These buildings have no place in our community. About the no parking design, see the Saturday Oregonian A1 – “Cars play a bigger role than thought”. According to this article, 80.6% percent of commuters in the Portland Metro area get to work by automobile, 6.2% by public transit and 2.3% by bike. Seventy five percent of renters own cars. If you put an eighty unit building where there were 1-2 single family homes, you have gone from 2-4 cars (in some cases the homes had off street parking for 1 -2 cars that was lost) to possibly sixty or more cars. And how many units will have couples with 2 cars? If you have a business near these buildings or on the ground floor, where do your customers park? They are not all going to get to your business by foot, bus or bike. Even more parking is lost to these aggravating bio swales being placed everywhere!
Look, also, at the difference in density and transportation in European cities. People in these cities often live in flats that they own. Most of these buildings have underground parking. European “high density, low income” housing is built on the outskirts of their cities. Metros in these cities run underground subway systems where trains come every few minutes. Portland does not have this level of public transportation and is nowhere near it. Riding the bus costs $2.50 each way with a monthly pass costing $100. Buses on the Eastside come every 15 minutes during peak hours and Trimet has reduced service.
I know that Portland needs to move toward increased density and decreased traffic congestion, but these buildings are not the solution. We need “right size” development for our neighborhoods. Buildings with 20-25 decent sized apartments with 15 parking spaces and green area setbacks so that the building has some landscaping around it to create beauty and space to breathe makes sense to me. Creating a balance of condos (flats) and apartments makes more sense. Many people will still want to own their own place eventually and will have to flee to the suburbs again to find affordable housing because these rentals will be all the city has to offer.
As far as I can see, there was no actual planning that preceded permitting these monstrosities to be built in our neighborhoods and the developers have jumped in to take advantage of this to get their money (maximize profit) before the citizens of Portland have had a chance to come together and stop this. How many of these developers and Portland State Urban Planning professors live in the city in apartments, ride public transportation or bike to work?
You’re seemingly worried about so much there it’s hard to know where to start. So let’s try here:
These apartments are fine. They’re not be for everybody, and that’s fine too. There are a lot of tradeoffs involved with these smaller apartments, namely how much stuff you can have, the lack of a kitchen, and the lack of car parking. But other than the lack of kitchen, those are all things that can put someone at a financial advantage.
Didn’t mean to end my post there..
Your emphasis on size, car parking, and extra green space are all things that can sink a lot of money into that these apartments are designed to get away from. For some people the may be nice, but they’re not for everybody. And being able to live with less, for less, can really help people get ahead, especially if they’re just getting started.
I think that car parking does need to be addressed, especially in very dense neighborhoods. But I’d urge you to think really hard about the real costs of those things for people.
today’s classic takeaway
the micro-housing you bikey people think is sooooo cool, is going to be occupied by low life riff-raff with cars who work at call centers and chain smoke all the time…
and the women will have their boyfriends live with them (as soon as they get out of jail) and there will be SREAMING BABIES!!!
it will be a special kind of jerry springer hell that i would not want to live next to