Drive through any gentrified neighborhood in a major city these days and you’ll see the construction of McMansions, mammoth homes out of scale with the rest of their neighborhood. Here we’ll look at the opposite: tiny homes that can have a huge impact on sustainable living.
Micro units are small, usually around 300 square feet. For those used to suburban sprawl they can seem claustrophobic, but they are often the size of starter apartments in New York City. In San Francisco, rent is so expensive that legislation now allows the construction of apartments as little as 220 square feet as long they dedicate
Micro units are built with fewer raw materials, which have a positive impact on sustainable living. With modular construction, they can be manufactured offsite while excavation and site preparation are being done at the ultimate location. The units can then be transported for assembly, saving time and lowering costs. They are often designed to be very strong, with good insulation making them very energy efficient thereby contributing to sustainable living. Because they’re small, maintenance costs are lower. Best of all for those whose wages haven’t kept up with housing costs, micro units can be very affordable.
American Family Housing, an Orange County, California-based nonprofit, is committed to doing its best to fight the scourge of homelessness. It’s in the process of beginning a capital fundraising effort for a pilot project to build micro living spaces for chronically homeless people who can no longer afford existing housing.
AFH Chief Executive Officer Donna Gallup told me that the organization is currently seeking approval to raze a single family home on land it owns near its Midway City headquarters so that it can replace the house with 16 pre-fabricated micro units– one for the manager, the rest for the homeless, including eight for veterans. It’s attempting to construct a model that can be scalable and replicated elsewhere, while significantly supporting sustainable living. Although AFH is a nonprofit, it charges rent for its existing 53 properties in Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Counties, but keeps rates affordable. A landlord out to earn a fair return could readily adopt the AFH paradigm, while charging more for rent.
Now that books, movies, photo albums and music are often stored on iPhones or Kindles instead of bookcase shelves, while television sets have flattened, people can get by with less living space than in years past. If done efficiently, micro units can be great for a range of tenants and property owners, from those launching their careers to single parents downsizing after their children have left home.