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Livin’ small

Kids today and their crazy ideas about how to live.

The modern apartment is increasingly likely to look like this: a 380-square-foot space with a separate bedroom; a kitchen with fewer cabinets and more shelves; and a place in the garage to plug in an electric car.

“Things are changing quickly,” architect Mark Humphreys said last week during a webinar in which he and other industry experts presented their outlooks and new trends for the apartment market.

Units have been getting smaller as more 20-somethings – a key segment of the renter population – no longer want roommates or big pieces of furniture requiring large spaces.

“Millennials coming into apartments don’t own a whole lot other than technology,” said Doug Bibby, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Multi Housing Council.

Several years ago, Humphreys designed a project in The Woodlands where the smallest units were 550 square feet. There’s now a waiting list to get one.

The floor plans with 380 square feet, known as “micro units,” are slowly making it to Houston. Humphreys designed some in a project in Katy, and he said there’s “no question” more will start to show up in the urban core.

It’s a trend he calls “the Manhattanization of the United States.”

I presume the main attraction of these smaller units is that they’re less expensive than larger ones. Smaller spaces are also easier to keep clean, but really, it’s going to be about cost. If this sort of trend catches on, it might make it economical to build reasonably affordable apartment units in popular parts of town. Of course, small spaces like this are likely to only really appeal to single people, but I figure there will be plenty of them. We’ll see how much this actually catches on.

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