Micro housing is a novelty, not a solution

Photo courtesy of Mark Turnauckas (Flickr)

Throughout the last few days I’ve clicked through countless photos of stylish apartments barely the size of my bedroom. Put simply, I find them fascinating.

My interest isn’t solely because I think 200 square foot micro apartments look amazing, being designed in an incredibly utilitarian, sophisticated manner given the space. It’s also because I like to picture myself going about my day in them. Here is the inside of a living space that can be captured in its entirety with merely two or three photos. That’s how small it is.

Micro living is so chic. So different. So cool.

Picture yourself having to hang your kitchen table on the wall after you use it, or to fold your chairs into a floor-cupboard behind you. Micro dwellings are designed so that inhabitants can make as much use of the limited space as possible. Drawers pull out from the sides of stairs; a bed is nestled on the second floor just atop the stairwell; a bathroom the size of that on an airplane is tucked away in the corner.

These tiny dwellings are so unique that the novelty has us wondering how our lives would be different while residing in them. Would we be able to adapt to this living space? How long would this last?

Micro lofts are only a minimalist’s and an architect’s dream.

But before we indulge too much in the fantasies of urban affordable living, let’s take a moment to consider the realities of a cramped living space. Micro lofts are a minimalist’s and an architect’s dream. In other words, the health risks and housing obstacles vastly outweigh the benefits.

Sure, a miniscule apartment may suit a single, 20-something year old, who spends most time out of the house, but to a sloppy workaholic, or more importantly a family, these snapshot spaces would likely transform one’s life into an inconvenient, claustrophobic nightmare.

The act of reconfiguring one’s living space in order to meet the needs of daily tasks would soon become tedious and constricting. Lack of storage would bar me from purchasing goods and household items. The noise from other micro lofts would be incredible, thus preventing me from safeguarding my full privacy. And with no real freedom to move, all too soon I imagine the walls in my tiny space would feel as though they’re tightening around me.

However, more concrete research by InformeDesign now claims that claustrophobia caused by cramped living spaces can contribute to increased domestic violence and alcohol abuse — not a fantastic finding for those young families searching for affordable homes in the heart of of the city. Further findings from Social Science Research claim that lack of freedom contributes to a withdrawn child, one that has difficulty concentrating.

Small-scale homes would additionally prevent gatherings of more than a few individuals — a loss in identity claim for the home owner. I enjoy inviting people into my living space and showing them what is important or unique to me as an individual.

Real estate agents and housing developers in Vancouver may proclaim these homes as the solution to our city’s increasing housing unaffordability, though this solution merely pertains to select individuals with active lifestyles. Yes, the mayor of New York can hail micro housing as a “milestone for new housing models,” though I’d be interested to see how he fares living in an urban closet.

I think it’s time we looked past the novelty and realized these avant garde “solutions” as what they really are — a solution to increasing numbers in a living space, but not to actually living.