Few topics are as visceral. A 300 square foot apartment is an affront, and 200 square feet is downright inhuman…right?
Not to me. They fill an important and underserved need. And for a lot of people they’ll be a good and even fun way to live.
With the Videre opening up on 23rd soon, and with the Moda Apartments recently opening in Belltown (originally sold as condos), small apartments are a hot subject in more ways than one. There’s something about the very idea that compels many people to speak as if they’re being asked to live there personally.
Maybe those people think no housing is better than small housing. Or that the only legit route to affordability is to live farther out (as if that math makes sense), or to have roommates (there’s a way to maintain sanity!), or to live with Mom and Dad, or to live with a subsidy, or to live with the pitter-patter of rats, as a friend of mine once did.
You might think this is all theory to me, but I’ve lived it, and recently. Spent four months in a hotel room on Lower Queen Anne while between condos in 2008. Probably 250 square feet. Stuff away in a storage locker. The only thing roomy was the ADA-compliant bathroom. Living in the middle of things made it much easier…sort of like Moda, and even Videre for some people.
Costs can be high on a square foot basis, for example because plumbing costs don’t scale down with the size of the bathroom, the electrical load for each unit might be nearly as high, and elevator service is related to the number of units more than square footage. With shell costs automatically high, developers can be excused for spending a little bit extra to put in finishes that bring the perceived value up to the prices they need to justify.
About “fun.” We’re all wired a little differently. Some people think fun is living in 3,000 square feet and stretching out, with the whole family having a different room for each thing they do, and spending a lot of time fussing with the lawn, and having lots and lots of furniture, and, well, why on earth do people assume we all want that? Maybe fun is living within one’s means in a cozy place, knowing where everything is, and having freedom from stuff. Maybe fun is using that money to eat better, travel more, or have a financial cushion. Maybe it’s trading square footage for a location in the middle of it all. Yes, it’s possible to live small as a lifestyle choice.
Some people want fun, while others just want to live affordably and without subsidy in a clean place without roommates of the various kinds. Nothing wrong with that. Let those subsidies (such as the levy we should renew this year) go to more needy people. And it’s great when people choose to live near work or school, rather than taxing the transportation system.
Apparently the Videre project was fit into the zoning through creative use of the code, and wasn’t specifically envisioned. Rather than scurry around to fix this “loophole,” we should find ways to help more of these projects happen.