Coming to a Walkable Place Near You: More Efficient Housing

Meeting the demand for housing is one of the biggest challenges facing America’s most walkable, transit-oriented cities.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg shows off a floor plan for a "micro-apartment." Photo: ##http://www.businessinsider.com/the-smallest-apartments-yet-are-being-built-in-new-york-city-and-its-just-300-square-feet-2012-7## Business Insider##

In-demand metros like New York and San Francisco are starting to put forward some innovative solutions to their housing challenges. New York is considering amending its building codes to allow “micro-apartments” of around 275 to 300 square feet. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Bay Area might lower the legal limit to just 150 square feet.

But it’s not just big cities rethinking what type of housing they will allow. Today, Network blog Decatur Metro — based in an inner-ring Atlanta suburb — explains how that city’s leaders are encouraging “accessory dwellings,” like carriage houses that make room for apartments in single family neighborhoods. That is something that Vancouver has been working on for years.

Another city that’s rolling out the welcome mat for folks who might not be able to swing it otherwise is Seattle. Erica C. Barnett at Network blog PubliCola explains how this city is moving forward on micro-housing developments. Except the neighbors aren’t happy about it.

The project that has incensed neighborhood activists—primarily the Eastlake Community Council and its president, Chris Leman—is a five-unit building being developed by multifamily developer Kelten Johnson.

It’s a relatively new style of apartment building that’s becoming popular among low-income workers, college students, and people who just want to save on rent. Each “unit” takes up an entire floor of the five-story building, and consists of seven or eight separate living areas (each with a bedroom, ranging from 100 to 200 square feet) that connect to a central kitchen and living area.

Known colloquially as “aPODments” (after the trademarked name of a similar development next to the University of Washington), the units are technically known as boarding houses, and they’re perfectly legal in dense urban areas near frequent transit service.

According to PubliCola, the city of Seattle has issued six permits for this type of housing development and there are as many as 12 “in the pipeline.” Since they tend to be situated around transit, that should make Seattle a more sustainable, affordable and equitable place, no matter what the NIMBYs say.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Portland wonders if cargo bikes can be a tool for social justice. Marta Rocks! offers 15 reasons to support Atlanta’s one-cent transportation referendum on July 31. And the Architect’s Newspaper reports that Detroit has received $45 million in federal funding to enhance its popular Riverwalk.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Are There Any Affordable Cities Left in America?

|
Are Washington, San Francisco, and New York the most affordable American cities? A new report from the New York-based Citizen’s Budget Commission [PDF], which made the rounds at the Washington Post and CityLab, argues that if you consider the combined costs of housing and transportation, the answer is yes. But a closer look at the data casts […]

Sprawl and the Cost of Living

|
Cross-posted from City Observatory.  Over the past three weeks, we’ve introduced the “sprawl tax”—showing how much more Americans pay in time and money because of sprawling urban development patterns. We’ve also shown how much higher the sprawl tax is in the US than in other economically prosperous countries, and how sprawl and long commutes impose […]

Apartment Blockers

|
Alan Durning is the executive director and founder of Sightline Institute, a think tank on sustainability issues in the Pacific Northwest. This article, originally posted on Sightline’s blog, is #9 in their series, “Parking? Lots!” Have you ever watched the excavation that precedes a tall building? It seems to take forever. Then, when the digging […]

Lousy Neighborhoods, Not Lax Zoning, Make Sunbelt Houses Cheaper

|
The middle class is getting priced out of liberal cities, while red-state urban areas remain affordable. Does that mean our cities should be less like tightly regulated San Francisco and more like permissive Houston? It’s a common argument — but it doesn’t fit the facts. To start with, Houston is hardly a paradise of deregulation. In practice, local experts explain, […]

Livable Streets or Tall Buildings? Cities Can Have Both

|
Kaid Benfield’s new blog post on density is getting a lot of buzz over at NRDC’s Switchboard blog. Benfield, a planner/lawyer/professor/writer who co-founded both LEED’s Neighborhood Development rating system and the Smart Growth America coalition, has some serious street cred when it comes to these matters. And on this one, he’s with Danish architect Jan Gehl, […]