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micro apartment (micro-apartment)

Contributor(s): Corinne Bernstein

A micro apartment, also spelled microapartment, is a small, self-contained, single-occupancy apartment, typically located in an urban area. Micro apartments are usually about half the size of an average one bedroom apartment, but sometimes can be as small as a hotel room. Micro apartments can be purpose-built in new structures but are also being installed in renovated buildings, including former shopping malls, office buildings, mills and data centers. The trend has gained ground in Seattle, Boston, Providence, New York as well as Japan, Hong Kong and parts of Europe.

Micro apartments usually include space for sleeping, sitting, a kitchenette, a limited number of shelves or cubbyholes and a bathroom. Residents may sometimes share access to full kitchen, living room, laundry facilities and a garden.  Many "tiny living" apartments are designed with space-saving furniture such as beds built into walls, futons that convert into other furniture, built-in storage space, folding desks and tables, and extremely small or hidden appliances.

A national trend toward smaller urban apartments, also called micro flats, “aPodments,” micro lofts, metro suites or sleeping rooms, is expected to grow as rents in highly populated urban areas continue to rise.  Also sparking the micro apartment trend is the growing percentage of people who live by themselves, including students, people just starting their careers and retirees on limited incomes.

Some pressure is coming from residents of conventional houses and apartments who are concerned that the growing number of micro apartments in their areas may contribute to traffic, parking and other problems. Seattle, one of the first U.S. cities to see a surge in micro apartment construction, now has regulations controlling unit size, layout and location and requiring design reviews and on-site parking.

This was last updated in June 2017

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