Micro Family Housing

After lengthy discussions on the topic of unit size and affordable housing, Here is a blog I wrote last fall after attending the ULI fall conference in San Francisco. Thought it may interest some of you…


ULI Fall 2015 Conference Blog post

Bringing Back the Walls; Micro Housing for Families

Pursuant to the ideals of the ULI, new and fresh ideas abounded throughout the week of the fall 2015 conference. Given the breadth, diversity and creativity of the ULI members and presenters, the week was informative, inspirational and exciting. Of the many ideas presented, one that stuck out for me was Patrick Kennedy’s ideas for affordable housing.

Marrying the lessons learned from the micro housing movement, the space planning of student housing, and the need to make housing more affordable, Kennedy’s Panoramic Interests of Berkeley pushes the boundaries of traditional housing design, with micro unit plans incorporating up to 4 bedrooms. While we generally associate the micro housing movement with tiny 200+ square foot studios with murphy beds, Kennedy is attempting something a bit different; small, fully functional apartments for low income working families and cohabitating individuals.

Panoramic interests 2425 Square feet. Image courtesy of Kennedy’s Presentation


Not content to stop there, Kennedy is also attempting to make the whole thing modular. As a major benefit of such small space plans, the modular units used for this micro housing fit on traditionally sized trucks, substantially reducing the cost and coordination required to get the units to the jobsite.

Panoramic interests 1

Image courtesy of Kennedy’s presentation

All of this adds up to units that Kennedy claims are 30% less expensive than traditional units. Although a 70 square foot bedroom inside a micro sized apartment may not be for everyone, Kennedy’s ideas for providing affordable, market rate units without relying on any schemes or subsidies is an interesting and potentially effective tool to deal with a portion of the affordability issues in our modern American cities.

From a different perspective, these units counter the trend of designing units to be increasingly more open, with fewer prescribed spaces and fewer walls. These apartments take a contrary approach, chopping up what is traditionally a 1-bedroom size into a 4-bedroom format. Kennedy’s argument is that for apartments to work for families, they need to provided separation for the occupants. For example, he believes that his three-bedroom unit would be preferable for a single mother of two than an equally sized one bedroom where everyone had to share a bedroom. He may be on to something.

As a final note, all of the presentation materials for the ULI fall conference are available here: ULI Fall Meeting Presentations

Brad Machat- MSRE Class of 2016



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