In response to skyrocketing rents and urban housing shortages, cities like New York, Seattle and now Detroit are allowing the construction of new, increasingly stylish micro-apartments. In many cases, these single-occupant dwellings are under 400 square feet, each with a bathroom and in some cases, a shared kitchen.
In Tampa, however, modern zoning laws requiring minimum square footage, accessible parking and certain occupancy limits are making it difficult to move forward in eliminating the city’s rundown single-room rentals and illegal flophouses in favor of an affordable, updated and more streamlined alternative. But according to one Tampa City Council member, this emerging trend in urban housing development is very much “on the city’s radar.”
As the city moves towards restructuring its zoning laws to resemble codes that are more urban than suburban in application, city officials anticipate a certain amount of resistance from residents who will likely take a negative view on low income, high density residential buildings popping up in their neighborhoods. But from an investment perspective, developers are encouraged by the “more bang for your buck” aspect when considering a high-volume of units priced slightly higher per square foot than the standard studio or apartment.
In New York, where their seems to be no ceiling in sight on escalating rents, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg staged a competition in 2012 to design a micro-units development. While the resulting experimental buildings have not exactly alleviated the city’s housing frustrations, they have certainly opened the dialogue about retooling New York’s finite supply of apartments. In Detroit, where similar projects are now underway, the apartments are said to be targeting a specific demographic—namely millennials. Moreover, in a town that has already begun a massive revitalization effort, the small living spaces are meant to encourage a young, upwardly mobile crowd to venture out of their homes and into the city.
Nonetheless, in Tampa such developments are more likely to focus on the needs of low-income families rather than those of a more temporary-minded workforce of twenty-somethings. Here, the objective would be aimed at stabilizing families at risk of becoming homeless, as well as those who are already homeless as a means of making them self-sufficient. In essence, Tampa would be borrowing the concept of micro-living for use as a rehabilitation strategy. A spokesperson for Metropolitan Ministries, a local non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating homelessness has stated that the agency now assists some 50 families per day in looking for an affordable housing option, adding that “a larger stock of affordable housing would make our job much easier.”