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U District micro-apartment: affordable steal or ‘prison cell’?

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Would you live here for $750/month?

WPI Real Estate

When Seattle started ramping up regulations on micro-apartments a few years back, a lot of folks questioned whether or not it was ultimately going to destroy the very point of providing tiny-but-affordable housing to those who don’t want anymore than that. There’s some validity to the argument given that the number of micro-apartment units being developed has fallen and the price on the remaining units has risen.

That leaves developers with two options. Follow the market where it takes them or try their best to provide what was originally-intended. That, however, might not always end up with the most pleasant-looking results.

WPI Real Estate

That leads us to a recent listing for a 130-square-foot studio in University District for $750/month. That price sure sounds right, considering the average U District studio right now rents for $1,215. But like anything, there are trade-offs. The unit is actually inside a congregate living building so you’ll share the kitchen and living room space with other tenants. That’s fine, but it’s the other part that got people talking this week.

The toilet and the shower are completely open to the rest of the unit. No walls. No dividers. As one person put it on Reddit, “it’s a friggin prison cell.”

WPI Real Estate

The Seattle Times checked and, yes, the room meets the city’s code standards because of the fact that it does not include a place to cook or prepare food. They also checked with Public Health and found that it meets plumbing codes as well.

All of this brings us back to the original point of micro-housing. It initially boomed in Seattle because traditional rental rates were rising and a growing population of workers didn’t feel like they needed a big living space. The regulations came down in a hazy of NIMBYism and concern trolling over what is considered livable. That demand that made micro-housing so popular didn’t go away, so developers tweaked their plans to accommodate it how they could. And that’s how you end up with a $750/month studio with a free-standing toilet.

WPI Real Estate

The issue now is that if the concern trolls come back around to make something like this illegal, what will the next round if micro-housing look like? If you do decide to take this place because it’s either what you can afford or what you want, go for it, just make sure the apartment door is locked when you’re on the can.