The term “micro-loft” was trademarked by Rosslyn Lofts in Los Angeles, CA, with a first use in commerce on August 11, 2006. A micro-loft is a tiny loft apartment, usually between 225-450 square feet and, depending on what city you are living in, prices start at about $550-$1200 per month. The popularity of reclaiming unused, abandoned and recession-stricken real estate has been growing in popularity across the United States for the past three years, with micro lofts popping up in many major metropolitan areas. Complete with bedroom(s), bathroom(s), work desk, kitchen and living area - most of the buildings also offer roof decks, gyms, bike rooms, and other such community spaces. Some of the loft designs also include Murphy guest beds or conversion furniture, as well as ADA and low-income/rent-control units.
TRG is on the forefront of the scene in Los Angeles. In 2013, their first acquisition was a 100-year-old apartment building near the planned Farmers’ Field in Downtown Los Angeles for $3.05 million. TRG Principal Reuben Robin became interested in the project after chatting with service industry workers about the dearth of affordable housing downtown. When completed, the units will run between $1,200 and $1,700 per month. TRG plans to invest as much as $50 million in market-rate housing in DTLA by then middle of 2015 and is expecting to close on an additional 68 units in the neighborhood in the near future.
Also in 2013, New York announced plans for 335 E. 27th St., with units as small as 250 square feet, though most are a bit larger. It will be the first multifamily building in Manhattan to be built entirely from prefabricated modular pieces. Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corp. and nArchitects, the project’s developers, won the adAPT NYC competition, which sought proposals for space-optimizing units. The 55 apartments in the building plan to have ceilings 9 feet to 10 feet high, balconies and loft space overhead and will range in size from 250 to 370 square feet, with 40 percent of them designated affordable units renting for below-market rates. Of the 55 units, 22 will be rent-restricted depending on tenants’ incomes, and 33 will rent at market rates. The restricted rents would range from $939 a month for those who earn 80 percent of the area’s average annual income, or $55,000 annually for a couple, to $1,873 for those earning 155 percent, or $106,640 for a couple.
In Providence, Rhode Island our nation’s oldest indoor mall – declared as a National Historic Landmark in 1976 - was rehabilitated as part of a heritage project. The Arcade Providence revitalization was structured so the first floor of the mall remains as retail, while the upper floors house 48 residential units. Insulated glass on the storefronts and the micro lofts was introduced into the design to help residents enjoy an acoustically pleasing living environment.
Vancouver is now home to Canada's smallest self-contained rental suites. These micro lofts, the result of a heritage project to renovate the ancient Burns Block building in Gastown, range from 226 to 291 square feet and rent for about $850 per month, including cable and Internet.
Other cities are also experimenting with small-size suites in central neighborhoods: Shoebox Lofts in Portland, Oregon; Cubix Yerba Buena in San Francisco, California; and Moda Apartments in Seattle, Washington. All have units in the 250 to 300 square foot range. Boston all recently approved its first micro lofts project at 300 square feet per unit.
While living quarters of this size are not for everyone, there is a definitely a need in our overpopulated cities. The ability to live close to one’s job and public transportation, at an affordable price, is a not a new concept. Travel to Hong Kong, for example; micro apartments are standard accommodation in many parts of the world. Apartments in many parts of Asia are often smaller than 300 SF and house more than one person. In fact, entire families regularly live in very small spaces. Here in the United States, with our current economy and way of life, efficient and low-cost housing is sorely needed. Not unlike the trend of Tiny Houses, it appears micro lofts are here to stay. And, if we can live in a space that is a cross between a modern flat in Vienna and college dorm living, then perhaps the micro loft is a viable housing solution for our topical lifestyle.