Homesick
February 23, 2018 10:55 AM   Subscribe

The landlord opens the door to a tiny room. It radiates the possibility that I have been wrong about everything. Every decision in my life has led me to this point, and I can't believe what it looks like: The space is 10 feet by 9 feet 3 inches. This living room/dining room/office/bedroom/closet is 175 square feet total, according to my calculations. ... I catch my own face in the mirror. I have a hard time looking at myself, here, in an apartment this teensy, at age 34. If I take this place, that mirror is going to have to come down. What It's Like to Live in a Space the Size of a Closet by Paulette Perhach.

In the middle of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., visitors walk through a full-scale, 1,000-square-foot home designed to comfortably house a multigenerational family: There’s room for a grandmother, a single mother, and her young son. Just days ago, the home was set up for four roommates in their twenties; with another shifting of walls and furniture and amenities in a few months, it’ll again be converted into an ideal space for an elderly couple. The American Household Is Evolving–And Our Housing Should Too by Eillie Anzilotti.

The Düzce Hope Homes, as the units have been dubbed, were recognized in December as one of eight finalists in the World Habitat Awards 2017, which honor innovative housing solutions around the globe. The homes are being constructed in unusually close collaboration with their future residents, who have taken part in every stage of the design and building process. They are also being built at the same time that towns and cities around Turkey, especially large metropolises such as Istanbul and Ankara, undergo wave after wave of “urban transformation” projects that often displace low-income residents, particularly renters, in favor of profit-driven development. The 'Most Hopeful' New Housing in Turkey by Jennifer Hattam.

...The Brenlands decided to buy a secondhand bus and turn it in into a shelter for homeless people. They saw the double-decker former school bus for sale on eBay, and the owners, Stephensons of Essex, a privately owned bus company, gave it to them for free. Then Gareth, a tradesman, put in a kitchen and bathroom – donated by local businesses – and created 14 sleeping pods, a lounge and dining area. Can converted buses help people find a route out of homelessness? by Rosie Fitzgerald.

“Our minimum requirements for the homes: a secure roof, door, plumbing, electricity and dignity,” the mayor said. He added the homes could take on many forms, from 300-square-foot modular homes to “container units inside warehouses.” He said the location of the new homes will have to be determined, but the more than 100 vacant parcels controlled by the city should be a starting point. Sacramento mayor wants 1,000 tiny homes for homeless people by Ryan Lillis.

At least 600 of Scotland’s most vulnerable rough sleepers are to be provided with homes and the continuing support they need to sustain their tenancies, in the largest commitment of its kind in the UK. The Scottish social enterprise Social Bite, which has previously attracted celebrity support from George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio, will take a minimum of 600 people out of homelessness over the next 18 months, alongside fully funded wrap-around support for clinical issues, such as mental ill-health and addiction, and more practical concerns such as finding furniture and arranging refuse collection. Hundreds of rough sleepers in Scotland to be offered homes by Libby Brooks.

California housing bonus link: Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast by Matt Levin.
posted by Bella Donna (102 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
I deeply badly want to move into a space a bit smaller, one difference is that it has sails and can be used to visit oh say, Bali or Sri Lanka, but size is a mater of perception.
posted by sammyo at 11:06 AM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


I just moved from a two-bedroom apartment to a room in a shared space, so housing is on my mind. I am surprised by how happy I am with my room. It is wonderful being responsible for much less space. Still, living in a houseboat sounds potentially even better. Not so much a sailboat. I would be happy to visit you on one, sammyo, but I prefer boats that stay docked. When it comes to living aboard them, anyway.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:11 AM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


The two flats I lived in in Hong Kong were both around 180 square feet and that included the bathroom and the kitchen. It was definitely a learning experience and surprisingly convenient. I could be on the phone with my parents (I had a voip line tethered to my router) while sitting on the toilet. They only figured out I was doing that when they heard the toilet flush.
posted by astapasta24 at 11:34 AM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


I may be an outlier, but this characterises most of the places I've lived in the past several years. I had in a room in London that was so small the mattress outmeasured the length of the room, with the shared kitchen and bathroom about the same size. Had a similar place in San Francisco, though slightly larger, and while the bathroom was minuscule it was at least private. I spent a summer in a cottage the size of most peoples' living rooms and would have happily stayed on there another year. And both my room in a shared space in Reykjavík and my place in Helsinki are likely smaller than the one described in the first article.

Perhaps this is a newer phenomenon in America, but in many places I've lived, smaller living spaces are often just the norm. A friend in Copenhagen put together a gorgeous 16sqm flat where he regularly hosts dinner parties of 8 people. Nice, 12sqm flats are not uncommon in Helsinki, and I know several people living in 20sqm or less, some with the old-style 'wet room' bathrooms the size of a coat closet. I had friends in Romania who lived in garsoniera/studio flats where they could stretch their arms out and almost touch both walls.

Once you're accustomed to it, it's really not a hardship. Occasionally there are a few conveniences I miss, but a small living space is not a hardship, particularly with intelligently designed storage and multi-purpose furniture.
posted by myotahapea at 11:40 AM on February 23, 2018 [8 favorites]


I lived in 144 sq ft tiny house for a year and a half. it was wonderful but that was mostly because I was parked next to beautiful open spaces and a garage. i spent most of my time in the big room(aka outside).
posted by danjo at 11:44 AM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm ok with small, but I'm less patient with shared bathrooms as time goes by.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:45 AM on February 23, 2018 [28 favorites]


Here in Stockholm small spaces are definitely common, and also what are called "Stockholm" showers, which must be like the "wet rooms" you mention. A Stockholm shower is a handheld shower head that you use next to the toilet or sink because there is no actual shower but there is a drain in the floor. My big problem with tiny spaces is that I really like to have people over for dinner.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:46 AM on February 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


Last winter and spring I went with my husband on his sabbatical trips to Taipei and Santa Barbara. The apartment in Taipei was Western-style, which is to say palatial; it was three bedrooms, one of which we didn't even use, and two bathrooms. The kitchen was an afterthought, but that didn't matter--we went out to eat every. single. night.

The apartment in Santa Barbara was an open-plan one bedroom in a brand new residence constructed entirely for the use of visiting astrophysicists. It was much smaller, but somehow roomier at the same time. Whereas we had to go out and buy a couple good-sized mugs, some chopsticks, and a sharp knife for the Taipei apartment, the kitchen in the much smaller UCSB apartment was fully stocked with dishes, utensils, and pots and pans for giving dinner parties for eight. I telecommute and made my "office" at the worktable in the bedroom corner where I had amazing views of the mountains.

We spent two months in each place, and I found myself thinking that I could easily give up our four-bedroom colonial, every wall of which is lined with bookcases, for an apartment like the one in Santa Barbara, which had exactly two shelves above the second workdesk in the sitting room area, transplanted to the Da'an district of Taipei. If only it had enough room for three cats.
posted by filthy_prescriptivist at 11:48 AM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


A small living space is fine - I lived in a sub 20sqm for a few years in Germany and didn‘t really mind. I could‘ve spared a few of those sqms, it felt spacious to me.
Sharing that small space with others - particularly with rambunctious kids or people you don‘t really know or like all that well - still sounds like torture to me.
posted by The Toad at 11:49 AM on February 23, 2018 [20 favorites]


This stuff scares the living daylights out of me. We're normalizing a completely different standard of acceptable living conditions, based primarily on restrictions imposed by runaway capitalism. For all the talk about sustainability and environmental concerns, the driving factor in every story like this is always the rent. That first link, she didn't seek out a tiny apartment, she was forced into one because there were no other affordable options. And $800 a month is hardly cheap in any real sense, except that it's less expensive than other places. It's great that she feels comfortable there, but that's an absurd amount of money to be paying for so little space. What will happen when the rent rises again, and the next story like this will talk about how much of a steal a $1,600, 175 sq ft apartment is?

I'm sure this makes me sound like the greedy American, unwilling to give up his excessive lifestyle in favor of something people all over the world are perfectly happy and comfortable with. It's always great to reconsider what we truly need, but I'd rather that be guided by conscious reflection about collective needs. That tiny apartment in Seattle doesn't exist because of overcrowding, or a desire for sustainability. It was a landlord chopping up units to squeeze more rent out of people. That allows rents elsewhere to stay as they are, and simply introduces a new, lower class of housing. There's no solution for rising costs of living here. It only serves to normalize the idea that we should be willing to make extraordinary concessions in favor of what the capitalists ask for.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:55 AM on February 23, 2018 [159 favorites]


Once I got stranded in Hong Kong, sick and with little money, and wound up staying in a place that was about 50 sf (full sized bed with room on one side, plus the foot to access it) plus a tiny wet room bath. It was tolerable, given the circumstances, but what bothered me most was not being able to sit in a proper chair. The storage solutions were cunning, and having lived out of a back pack for months I know I could have gotten by without overcrowding it with stuff, but my back would never have forgiven me.
posted by carmicha at 11:56 AM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


> A Stockholm shower is a handheld shower head that you use next to the toilet or sink because there is no actual shower but there is a drain in the floor.

A perfunctory Googling didn't come up with any suitable images but yea, that's exactly what I mean. Small enough to lean your forehead on the lip of the sink whilst sitting on the loo, and standing in that space bathing with the handheld shower head. Squeegee the excess water on the toilet seat/floor into the floor drain, and pull back the shower curtain hanging in front of the door. I've seen several of these in the old working-class flats in Kallio and Töölö.
posted by myotahapea at 11:57 AM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


What are the rents on these tiny apartments in Hong Kong and Copenhagen and Helsinki and Reykjavik? In New York now they're asking $2,765 for a sub-300-square-foot unit.
posted by enn at 12:06 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


The bathroom in my apartment in Napa CA was so small that you couldn't close the folding door when you were sitting on the toilet, so you had to crap with your knees in the so called 'kitchen' area.
posted by signal at 12:08 PM on February 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


She's a 34 year old adult, paying $795 a month to live in an "apartment" that's the size of a walk-in closet and has to share a bathroom. If it were me at that age, I'd be wondering where my life went wrong.

People living in flyover states (like myself) with a reasonable cost-of-living can only shake their heads in amazement. I just don't get the attraction of sacrificing my quality of life in order to live in (pick the latest, greatest coastal city), and likely never will.
posted by bawanaal at 12:23 PM on February 23, 2018 [16 favorites]


People living in flyover states (like myself) with a reasonable cost-of-living can only shake their heads in amazement.

I live in a super-expensive area, and housing is a nightmare (literally, I've had nightmares about it), but there's a lot keeping me here. As always, people may live in expensive places for a variety of reasons. A person may have ties to a place, may have friends and family there, may have a job there, may go to school there, may want to be take advantage of what that particular city has to offer, may not be ready to relocate to a completely new place, etc., etc. It serves nothing to judge people for dealing with high costs of living. Trust me, we know it's more expensive than other places. It doesn't help to have someone tut-tutting at us from elsewhere.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:30 PM on February 23, 2018 [70 favorites]


I just don't get the attraction of sacrificing my quality of life in order to live in (pick the latest, greatest coastal city), and likely never will.

I mean, the author explains, right in the article, why her quality of life and her career hinge upon the community she has, and how she is tied to her neighbourhood. It doesn't matter how 'reasonable' cost of living is in a given place when the jobs for which you're qualified simply don't exist there.
posted by halation at 12:35 PM on February 23, 2018 [25 favorites]


I could be on the phone with my parents (I had a voip line tethered to my router) while sitting on the toilet. They only figured out I was doing that when they heard the toilet flush.

You can do this in larger spaces too, or so I am led to believe ;)
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:39 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


> What are the rents on these tiny apartments in Hong Kong and Copenhagen and Helsinki and Reykjavik?

All data anecdotal: I can't speak personally for Copenhagen prices; I haven't looked recently and the aforementioned friend had bought his flat. The hired space I had in Reykjavík was over 3 years ago, and I moved out right as the landlord increased rents by 20% with no notice. I currently rent out my 60sqm flat in Vesturbær for approx. 1300USD but could easily raise that rent by 20% and still have no trouble finding a tenant, and rents are higher in the city centre. My current place in Helsinki is quite cheap as it's a bit of an anomaly, but I know people who have places in the 12sqm range in central neighbourhoods who pay €800-€1000/mo.

New York/San Francisco are different beasts altogether, IMO more on par with London where, some four years ago I was lucky to get the aforementioned room in Islington for £165pcw. Some friends just bought a single-family home near the panhandle in SF for $2 million. I had great, evil fun showing them the sort of place that money could buy in Helsinki.
posted by myotahapea at 12:42 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


The apartment in Santa Barbara was an open-plan one bedroom in a brand new residence constructed entirely for the use of visiting astrophysicists.

What design features are required to safely house astrophysicists? Fresh books to roll around in? Plenty of dry erase markers? Chew-proof coffee dispenser? Spherical shape to avoid confusion during hypotheticals?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:44 PM on February 23, 2018 [60 favorites]


I find the shift from large houses with dozens of roommates to tiny apartments for one really interesting. Is this a new trend towards privacy? A shift away from social living? Something to do with social media? People just getting burned by roommates one too many times? Any additional reading on this sort of thing would be welcome. I find it intriguing!
posted by Toddles at 12:44 PM on February 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


It was a landlord chopping up units to squeeze more rent out of people. That allows rents elsewhere to stay as they are, and simply introduces a new, lower class of housing.

There are plenty of problems with inequality and with housing policy and discrimination, but chopping a large space into smaller spaces allows more people to live in that space. If you want people to have more space and to live close to a specific location, you simply have to build more square feet close to that location.

I'm not trying to oversimplify the issue: You could also reallocate more space from people who have large spaces in that neighborhood, or you could make other neighborhoods more attractive - for example by improving public transportation - but you will always have to deal with the basic math of (square feet per person = total square feet / people).
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:46 PM on February 23, 2018 [9 favorites]


Oh man, that first article. I paid almost that exact amount of rent, in the next neighborhood over (North Capitol Hill) for an apartment that size all the way back in 2011. And I was 33 at the time. Ha! My apartment did have a separate kitchen (but no drawers, which drove me crazy!) and a bathroom.

It was ... ok. I learned that I am way too messy to successfully live in a place like that. It requires serious organizational skills. Also, I couldn't get ok with having a sofa that was also a bed, so I had a bed and a big comfy chair, which meant there pretty much wasn't room for anything else in the main room. Not even a dresser. Like the author, the selling point for my apartment was how crazy walkable it was. That was really nice, especially when a snowstorm shut the city down for a week and I got insane cabin fever in that tiny apartment.

The thing I really liked about this piece though was her description of the current vibe in Seattle. It really is going from being an "and" city to an "or" city and that sucks so much. That situation has existed for a long time in many other coastal cities, or evolved slowly, but the rapid pace with which it is happening in Seattle is unsettling.

I also really identify with the anxiety over whether or not it's worth it. This is something I've wrestled with a lot over the last two years. I love living in Seattle - it really suits me in so many ways. I have an amazing network of friends and I love the neighborhood I live in. But is all that worth the cost? It's so hard to know.
posted by lunasol at 12:46 PM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


She's a 34 year old adult, paying $795 a month to live in an "apartment" that's the size of a walk-in closet and has to share a bathroom. If it were me at that age, I'd be wondering where my life went wrong.

I doubt calling her a loser improves her circumstances.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:46 PM on February 23, 2018 [23 favorites]


I find the shift from large houses with dozens of roommates to tiny apartments for one really interesting. Is this a new trend towards privacy? A shift away from social living? Something to do with social media? People just getting burned by roommates one too many times? Any additional reading on this sort of thing would be welcome. I find it intriguing!

I mean, have you had roommates?

/Seinfeld
posted by leotrotsky at 12:47 PM on February 23, 2018 [9 favorites]


In all fairness, we should wonder where our economic priorities went wrong (and then discuss it in the political thread) as opposed to whether individual lives went wrong.

That being said, though, yeah. I live alone in a house with 3 bathrooms. It’s fucking great. I’ve done my time in small apartments (though not as small as the OP) and I’d adjust if I had to do it again. But, as Bartleby would say, I prefer not to.
posted by Autumnheart at 12:48 PM on February 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


As an idle experiment I asked Google for a list of US Cities by size. Here's the top 8. I live in the Phx Metro area.

#1 New York City, NY. Population: 8,550,405.
#2 Los Angeles, CA. Population: 3,971,883.
#3 Chicago, IL. Population: 2,720,546.
#4 Houston, TX. Population: 2,296,224.
#5 Philadelphia, PA. Population: 1,567,442.
#6 Phoenix, AZ. Population: 1,563,025.
#7 San Antonio, TX. Population: 1,469,845.
#8 San Diego, CA. Population: 1,394,928

Then I went to apartments.com and searched for all Studio apartment listings under $900.00. I specifically kept the search to the actual city area to attempt to keep the results of what, might be, the best cultural and mass transit opportunities seeing as how I'm unfamiliar with all the other cities except Chicago.

#1 NY - 3 hits
#2 LA - 30 hits
#3 Chicago - 745 hits
#4 Houston - 196 hits
#5 Philly - 168 hits
#6 Phx - 338 hits
#7 San An - 202 hits
#8 San Diego - 77 hits

Chicago is the only city to have more options than Phoenix, but I would bet good money that most of those listings are for roomshares/sub-divided units of the sort that the article writer found. Phoenix just doesn't have the mass of old buildings needed, so pretty much all the apartments will be actual apartments where you at least get your own tiny bathroom.

I don't really know what to do with this information. Other than lament the fact that Phoenix is still probably the most affordable "big" city to live in, and even that small comfort is slipping away as I remember being fresh out of High School and being able to rent a small two bedroom with a friend for $600.00 a month. Every single apartment complex I've seen go up in the past few years, rents start at $1000 and only shoot up from there. It's insane.
How the hell is Baby Objects every going to afford to move out?
posted by sharp pointy objects at 12:48 PM on February 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


Chicago is the only city to have more options than Phoenix, but I would bet good money that most of those listings are for roomshares/sub-divided units of the sort that the article writer found.

I don't really think so—Chicago is just very cheap for a city its size. In 2016 when I last lived there you could still easily find a real one-bedroom in a decent (if not hip or fancy) neighborhood for $900, and certainly a studio.
posted by enn at 1:00 PM on February 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


Chicago is the only city to have more options than Phoenix, but I would bet good money that most of those listings are for roomshares/sub-divided units of the sort that the article writer found.

Nah not likely. As a long-time veteran of the Chicago rental market, I can tell you that in the area you're examining, there is a LOT to be had if you want a studio for 900 bucks. Many of those studios are pretty nice, too -- separate kitchens with full-size appliances, plenty of storage.

There's also a fair bit to be had if you want a moderately shabby two-bedroom for, like, 1400.

All other varieties of living situation require either many roommates or an exorbitant amount of money. I have no idea why this is so, but I'm currently apartment hunting for the 16th time and it's definitely still the case.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:01 PM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


I mean, the author explains, right in the article, why her quality of life and her career hinge upon the community she has, and how she is tied to her neighbourhood. It doesn't matter how 'reasonable' cost of living is in a given place when the jobs for which you're qualified simply don't exist there.

She also said she worked on the road. I feel sorry for her, I guess, but we don't all get to live in the coolest cities. I wanted to retire in Oregon. Then I downsized my dream to living in Arizona. Now I'm, once again, downsizing to perhaps NW Arkansas. By the end of it, I'll probably settle for a small West Texas town in hill country.
posted by Beholder at 1:01 PM on February 23, 2018


This actually makes me pretty happy to learn. I've always loved Chicago, and would love to live around there someday, especially more and more as Seattle becomes way to expensive. Just got to get Mr. Objects on board with my plans =)
posted by sharp pointy objects at 1:03 PM on February 23, 2018


I just don't get the attraction of sacrificing my quality of life in order to live in (pick the latest, greatest coastal city), and likely never will.

Well. I was just at my mom's place in a "flyover state." She pays half of my rent and gets twice the space (and one more bedroom than) I do and has a d/w and w/d in her unit. Her apartment was probably also built more recently than the last time my place saw a genuine renovation.

On the other hand, we have to drive the five minutes to the nearest diner because it is unsafe to walk, as there are no sidewalks. (Indeed, one must drive to do ANYTHING WHATSOEVER.) There was a prayer on the front page of that diner menu. The closest church of her faith seceded from the main communion over whether gays are actually humans or some kind of icky sin-demons sent to test true Christians by pretending to be fellow children of God. There's a Chinese restaurant called "Takee Outee."

I really don't get how Mefi people keep raising this damn issue as if it were a tough one.
posted by praemunire at 1:04 PM on February 23, 2018 [78 favorites]


That being said, though, yeah. I live alone in a house with 3 bathrooms. It’s fucking great. I’ve done my time in small apartments (though not as small as the OP) and I’d adjust if I had to do it again. But, as Bartleby would say, I prefer not to.

I have only one bathroom as opposed to three; but I have five closets in the two-bedroom apartment I currently occupy. There is no way I would ever be able to afford this space without a roommate, but it is the entire top floor of a brownstone (and again, five closets), and so I have just resigned myself to having a roommate because I just know that I need space and I am therefore going to hang on to this apartment like grim death.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:04 PM on February 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


(....although, the article on Turkey was actually intriguing enough for me to circulate where I work, since it is relevant to our interests....)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:05 PM on February 23, 2018


(Or, to put it another way, my quality of life is immensely bolstered by living somewhere where I and the people I care about at least stand a fighting chance of being treated as human beings, rather than in wannabe theocracies begrudgingly held back by the Supreme Court.)
posted by praemunire at 1:05 PM on February 23, 2018 [20 favorites]


sacrificing my quality of life in order to live in (pick the latest, greatest coastal city), and likely never will

I live in a ~latest, greatest coastal city.~ This is my hometown. My parents and grandmother live here. My oldest friends live here or dream of moving back here. I am involved in the community, with organizations and people who I have known since childhood. This specific place is important to me on a very personal level.

It's terrible and crazy-making that, as a 32-year-old accountant, I can't really afford a one-bedroom alone in my own hometown. I am already terrified by the thought of trying to retire here, based on the cost of living. But I'm willing to give up the extra living space, yard, and financial security, because this is my home.

I really feel like when we talk about the cost of living and rents that it gets lost that what these people are paying (through the nose) for is a HOME. And the thought of losing your home (i.e. being priced out) is devastating and frightening.
posted by rue72 at 1:07 PM on February 23, 2018 [42 favorites]


I just don't get the attraction of sacrificing my quality of life in order to live in (pick the latest, greatest coastal city), and likely never will.

I mean I guess if your literal only criterion for "quality of life" is "dollars per square foot of living space" then this makes total sense? My cousin's mortgage in BFE Michigan is a lot cheaper than my rent but her grocery store has ONE kind of salsa and they look at you weird when you buy it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:07 PM on February 23, 2018 [41 favorites]


bawanaal: I just don't get the attraction of sacrificing my quality of life in order to live in (pick the latest, greatest coastal city), and likely never will.

It's less a question of sacrificing quality of life than a question of what defines 'quality' to a given person. If your definition of 'quality' is a house like the Dunne's in 'Gone Girl', with 4000sqft and multiple bathrooms and space for a home gym/two car garage/etc. then, yea, maybe living in a small place is a sacrifice. But where you may see space and comfort and luxury in such size, others may see hassle and inconvenience and even isolation. Another, perfectly valid, definition of 'quality' could be a smaller private living space in exchange for being able to walk nearly everywhere, have access to activity/culture/entertainment, not needing a car, and having a gym/park/café/bar/restaurant/etc. within a kilometre or two.

(FWIW I've lived in a situation similar to your circumstances -- big house, big yard, Chicago suburbs -- and returning to it would be like getting banished to one of the lower circles of Hell, so ... takes all kinds.)
posted by myotahapea at 1:12 PM on February 23, 2018 [11 favorites]


In November we downsized from a 4300 sq. foot exurban house 50 miles from DC to a 1600 sq. foot home 15 minutes from downtown Richmond VA. I couldn't pull off an in-town walkable neighborhood single family home in my budget, but damn, 15 minutes from downtown after 90 minutes of traffic hell to DC is freaking awesome. Also went from Red America to a very diverse zip code and neighborhood, although Dave Brat is still my Congressman.
posted by COD at 1:13 PM on February 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think an interesting angle in "how much space does a person need?" is the history of population density in cities like New York. For reference: Manhattan's population density past and present
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic at 1:14 PM on February 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


I live in a relatively spacious 1700 sq ft apartment in Chicago. I could see wanting to have one more bedroom for guests, but really... anything much bigger than this would just be too much. As it is I spend most of my time in very certain areas in my place. I just don't get the appeal of a giant home.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:19 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


OMG obliquity of the ecliptic. That infographic at the bottom showing 603 people per 5000sq ft in the Kowloon walled city is insanity. I mean, I know we don't need...like 800sq ft per person like we seem to like here in America, but that's a level of crammed in like sardines that I only contemplate in epic sci-fi dystopian futurist books. As we race towards 10 billion people on this planet, and a large majority of them are going to want to live in or near cities for economic opportunities, the sheer magnitude of the problem of where to put everyone is mind-boggling. Especially since, like most here, I assume we'd want to hope that most of those people could be provided with safe, affordable housing.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 1:20 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Then I went to apartments.com and searched for all Studio apartment listings under $900.00. I specifically kept the search to the actual city area to attempt to keep the results of what, might be, the best cultural and mass transit opportunities seeing as how I'm unfamiliar with all the other cities except Chicago.

I did that search for here in Pittsburgh and found only 174 studio apartments but did it again for 1BR < $900 and found 437 available and then again for 1BR < $900 and found 242 open. I've personally never met anyone who lived in a studio apartment here but they do exist so someone must.

They've built a bunch if high-end buildings lately with $1200 efficiency apartments but they're having a hard time filling them. The new buildings are seeing a 40% vacancy rate because so few people want to pay that much for rent.
posted by octothorpe at 1:21 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


(Or, to put it another way, my quality of life is immensely bolstered by living somewhere where I and the people I care about at least stand a fighting chance of being treated as human beings, rather than in wannabe theocracies begrudgingly held back by the Supreme Court.)

Houston is more affordable, by a mile, and elected an openly gay mayor, I'm pretty sure before any large city in the world. Of course the heat and humidity is pure hell, it takes forever to drive anywhere, plus Hurricanes, but we aren't Urban Cowboy and haven't been that in decades.

No one is going to be struck by lightning if they move out of Seattle. There are affordable alternatives, just not as awesome. It's all about picking your poison.
posted by Beholder at 1:23 PM on February 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think the density issue is interesting, thanks obliquity of the ecliptic! Also, I just relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to Stockholm, so pretty much from the most expensive housing market in the US to the most expensive housing market in Sweden. But because I am renting a room now instead of an apartment, my expenses have dropped dramatically. I am in my 60s and I left an area I loved, loved, loved (family, friends, history, feelings of home, roots) to be close to my grandchildren. I had this luxury as a dual citizen. And it is a luxury. Nobody seems to be commenting on the other stories, the ones about housing for the homeless. In my mind, all of these stories are linking by the rising rents that are pushing people into smaller and smaller places (which doesn't have to be a bad thing but can be) and sometimes pushing them out of homes entirely.

There's a piece in The Atlantic, This is What Life Without Retirement Savings Looks Like by Alana Semuels, which previews the nightmare ahead for a bunch of older people, and while it doesn't discuss homelessness, it does touch on rent.

CORONA, Calif.—Roberta Gordon never thought she’d still be alive at age 76. She definitely didn’t think she’d still be working. But every Saturday, she goes down to the local grocery store and hands out samples, earning $50 a day, because she needs the money.

“I’m a working woman again,” she told me, in the common room of the senior apartment complex where she now lives, here in California’s Inland Empire. Gordon has worked dozens of odd jobs throughout her life—as a house cleaner, a home health aide, a telemarketer, a librarian, a fundraiser—but at many times in her life, she didn’t have a steady job that paid into Social Security. She didn’t receive a pension. And she definitely wasn’t making enough to put aside money for retirement.

So now, at 76, she earns $915 a month through Social Security and through Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, a program for low-income seniors. Her rent, which she has had to cover solo since her roommate died in August, is $1,040 a month. She’s been taking on credit-card debt to cover the gap, and to pay for utilities, food, and other essentials. She often goes to a church food bank for supplies.

More and more older people are finding themselves in a similar situation as Baby Boomers reach retirement age without enough savings and as housing costs and medical expenses rise; for instance, a woman in her 80s is paying on average $8,400 in out-of-pocket medical expenses each year, even if she’s covered by Medicare. Many people reaching retirement age don’t have the pensions that lots of workers in previous generations did, and often have not put enough money into their 401(k)s to live off of; the median savings in a 401(k) plan for people between the ages of 55 and 64 is currently just $15,000, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security, a nonprofit. Other workers did not have access to a retirement plan through their employer.

That means that as people reach their mid-60s, they either have to dramatically curtail their spending or keep working to survive. “This will be the first time that we have a lot of people who find themselves downwardly mobile as they grow older,” Diane Oakley, the executive director of the National Institute on Retirement Security, told me. “They’re going to go from being near poor to poor.”

posted by Bella Donna at 1:25 PM on February 23, 2018 [9 favorites]


I find the shift from large houses with dozens of roommates to tiny apartments for one really interesting. Is this a new trend towards privacy? A shift away from social living? Something to do with social media? People just getting burned by roommates one too many times? Any additional reading on this sort of thing would be welcome. I find it intriguing!

No additional reading, but I have a hunch it has to do with so many more middle-class (often white) families staying in cities vs. moving out to the suburbs when they have kids. For example, I lived in an "inner city" neighborhood as a kid. My parents had a large social group of similarly progressive, middle-class (mostly white) professional friends, almost all of whom moved to the suburbs when it was time to send kids to school. So that meant there were a lot more family-sized homes available to rent to groups of friends in the city.

These days, those same types of people are more likely to stay in the city when they have kids, so there are less houses available for big groups of friends/roommates.

I've actually seen this progression in a few different neighborhoods in different coastal cities: blocks that go from being about 50-50 shared houses to family houses (or maybe even more like 80-20) where the ratio shifts over a decade or so as more families buy the houses. Mt Pleasant in DC is a good example of a neighborhood where this has happened on a pretty large scale (there you also have multi-generational Central American immigrant families replaced by nuclear 2 parent/2 kid families as well).
posted by lunasol at 1:30 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


I feel sorry for her, I guess, but we don't all get to live in the coolest cities. I wanted to retire in Oregon.

You're talking about retirement, though. Putting aside the fact that for a lot of people retirement isn't even a theoretical possibility, you evidently have the opportunity to decide where you're going to do that. People who are still working don't have that luxury. The author is aware that she could write in other places, and has, but wants to be able to work with the people at Hugo House, which is not just a source of community, but also a place to get and give feedback and to network with others for increased opportunities. If that doesn't exist for her in Houston, why should she move there? It would impede her career.

And, frankly, she and others do 'get to live in the coolest cities,' by sacrificing some living space for the ability to do so. You could also, presumably, get to live in a cool city, if you decided to live in a small space. Or you could do the same in Arizona or in Oregon or wherever else you pleased. You choose not to.

No one is going to be struck by lightning if they move out of Seattle. There are affordable alternatives, just not as awesome.

Again, it's not an 'affordable alternative' if you can't work there. Is your 'affordable alternative' factoring in both the potential career hit and the expense of a car and car insurance, which the author is able to avoid by living in a walkable place? Hell, she says in the article she's even able to save up money, currently, so I don't understand your line of response here at all.
posted by halation at 1:35 PM on February 23, 2018 [17 favorites]


No additional reading, but I have a hunch it has to do with so many more middle-class (often white) families staying in cities vs. moving out to the suburbs when they have kids

In Chicago we are definitely seeing a swing back toward one-family, one-house living. In fact, apartment buildings are being torn down and replaced with one-family houses, and mansions that had previously been chopped up into 2 and 3 apartments are being bought and re-converted back to mansions.

It's definitely not NOT related to a bunch of rich-ass white folks coming back to/staying in the city, is what I'm saying.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:35 PM on February 23, 2018 [9 favorites]


I just don't get the attraction of sacrificing my quality of life in order to live in (pick the latest, greatest coastal city), and likely never will.

I am really, really exhausted by this sort of thinking, this curiously persistent notion that my generation's housing problems would vanish if we just got over ourselves and moved to a very attractively priced soybean field. Despite this exhaustion, allow me to explain why my stupid dumb self is stupidly and dumbly residing in an expensive city, and why other stupid dumb people - like the article's author - do something so stupid and dumb. Believe it or not, the vast majority of us not actually making these major life choices based on relative proximity to avocado unicorn milkshake cat cafes.

1. There is this weird American assumption that everyone is from a small town or a suburb, and people just decide to move to a big city because they're vainly Finding Themselves. Except: A lot of people are from cities! A lot of people have lived their entire lives in urban areas, even before they got incredibly expensive! These people's families and friends are there! Moving to inexpensive suburban and rural places will mean leaving behind their entire cultures and entire support systems. It will mean leaving behind their homes.

2. A lot of people are not white, cis-gendered, or heterosexual. They may have very good reasons - culture, safety, friendship, dating - to reside in places where they will be amongst other people like them. Rural and suburban America may be quiet and inexpensive, but it's still largely very white and very heterosexual, and it's still not very welcoming to people who don't fit that norm. "Quality of life" has many meanings.

3. Urban areas have infrastructure. That includes Internet and mobile service: good luck working a decent remote job if you can't get a fast Internet connection in Inexpensive Real-American Soybean Land, or if your phone doesn't get reception. Health care costs the same in small towns and suburbia as it does in urban areas, and insurance and mental health care and Medicaid benefits and other social services may be much harder to obtain, especially in red states. Food usually isn't cheaper, or is only a bit cheaper. You've got to own a car, and you've got to regularly gas it up. What exactly should people who can't drive do if they find it harder and harder to afford living somewhere urban?

4. Many well-paying and fulfilling careers require you to live in expensive cities, at least for a while. (I don't mean "fabulous wealth and power" here, either, I mean 'you're not absolutely miserable and you can afford health insurance'). Some of these good careers, careers which help all of humanity, are limited to one or two cities in the entire world. You are going to have a very hard time advancing to better-paid and more responsible positions if you do not live in these expensive cities. I have met many young people in expensive cities, who'd really like to return to their rural home towns: but they can't, because there's no jobs.

5. Opportunity clusters! It just does, even in our Internet era - that's what's motivated Paulette Perhach, per the article. We live in a stupid and comically non-meritocratic world in which networking and running into people at parties is paramount to success (or just economic stability and comfort), and that is a whole lot easier when all the people who can help you advance are in the same geographic area as you, and are thus easier to access. Also, I've been a freelance, constantly-traveling writer like Perhach: no, you can't just do it from anywhere in most cases. You have to meet and interact with people who will publish and promote you.

6. City living is the way of the future, and I don't mean that in a depressing dystopian cyberpunk way. Larger, denser cities are widely considered to be more energy efficient: this study found that emissions are reduced as metros grow larger. Cities drive economic growth, though, as this research shows, they don't have to be ginormous mega cities: even small cities produce economic benefit in "developing" nations. I don't think advising youth to stop their whining and move out of the city, where they can be isolated from one another and from centers of culture and political power, is a particularly good strategy for a better tomorrow.
posted by faineg at 1:37 PM on February 23, 2018 [96 favorites]


You can put money into a 401K but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay there. We’ve had two economic crashes in the last 18 years that dramatically impacted the value of people’s investments.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:37 PM on February 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter: They call it the Vallentuna.
posted by Splunge at 1:41 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Urban areas have infrastructure.

My wife's parents live in a home in unincorporated county land - I didn't even know that you could live in not-a-town until I met her. They have a large house and plenty of land but her dad has to run hundreds of feet of cable in to the field so their cellular broadband antenna can see the local tower. She and I have had serious discussions about what happens if one of them has an emergency as they get older, because there's no fire department to send an ambulance out and it takes at least a half hour each way to get to a hospital.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:45 PM on February 23, 2018 [9 favorites]


It's definitely not NOT related to a bunch of rich-ass white folks coming back to/staying in the city, is what I'm saying.

Another reason to hope Amazon passes us by and inflicts its 50,000 affluent hires on another housing market.
posted by Iridic at 1:46 PM on February 23, 2018 [11 favorites]


No one is going to be struck by lightning if they move out of Seattle. There are affordable alternatives, just not as awesome.

So some friends of mine are preparing for a move to a suburb outside Boulder. They were hoping to finda bit of a smaller city and a better quality of life than they have in Brooklyn. They've actually found that the rents are about the same, but are going ahead and moving anyway.

Just today, out of curiosity, I looked into the average salaries for someone in my profession in Boulder, in case I ever want to join them. After all - the rents are about the same, yeah? But it turns out that I would take a $30K hit in salary by moving to Boulder. Plus I would need to buy a car, most likely.

Those who tout the "affordable alternative cities" forget that the salary drops along with the rents.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:52 PM on February 23, 2018 [34 favorites]


My partner and I are highly-educated, intellectually-engaged, liberal/radical queers who live in Michigan. We have, over the years, seriously considered moving to various places that would provide us more social and cultural outlets: Minneapolis, the Boston area, Philadelphia. Sadly, we are also the kind of people who find urban areas stressful and exhausting, so we have settled for having friends in such places and visiting them. It's a loss, though, a little tinge of regret we live with in an otherwise very happy and satisfying life.

People who choose to live in cities and give up, in exchange, bigger homes, are making the same trade-off, but in the other direction.

That said, I think it's too bad that so many urban areas become unattainable for young people or people who have limited means. Urban areas allow for concentrations of similar people, who can support each other. They allow for (with many caveats here) more efficient public transportation, and the potential, at least of walkability. In my ideal world, a young writer like the author could have her community and work opportunities, and also 300 square feet of living space.
posted by Orlop at 1:57 PM on February 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


yep. the cities where they have so much housing supply that they are literally giving houses away, like Detroit or Buffalo? those are where there are not enough jobs, or well-paying jobs
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 1:58 PM on February 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


Another reason to hope Amazon passes us by and inflicts its 50,000 affluent hires on another housing market.

Yup if Amazon comes to Chicago I basically know I'll have whatever time is left on my lease to continue living here. No room for mid-income freelance types in an Amazon Company Town, that's for damn sure.

But I promise not to pretend that being forced out of my *lifelong hometown* by soulless billionaire robber barons is some kind of fucking virtuous pilgrimage of Personal Responsibility, and I hope Mefites will hold me to that.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:00 PM on February 23, 2018 [14 favorites]


And here is where a hard-core liberal trashes NYC.

NYC has become one block after another, for dozens of blocks, of the same overpriced misery. Manhattan has become a weird Disneyland for tourists and millionaire douchebags. Brooklyn is quickly becoming the same. Brag about your miserable living conditions, the closet you converted into a bedroom, the hours you spend shuttling kids through "The City" and how over scheduled you all are.

Times Square and Midtown are contemporary nightmarish visions of what we used to think a nightmare vision of the future would be.

I spent lots of the 2000s traveling to NYC for business and pleasure. But As a liberal in 2018, I see it now as a sickness of corporate overkill, and an absolute shithole occupied by a few million used-car salesmen and a dwindling minority of people who are just barely getting by.

NYC is not a failure of liberalism, it's a failure of capitalism and oligarchy, and a shining example of what the 21st century American achievement has become.

But hey... My new 3 million dollar pad in the CBGB loft makes me real, a real New Yorker, and if you aren't a real New Yorker? Then who the fuck do you think you are?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:03 PM on February 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


faineg,

You make great points. But going back to the density issue, that seems like it is one of the biggest problems facing making cities really livable for all the people who want to be there (right up there with mass-transit). But I see NIMBY-ism as the biggest short-sighted threat to making things better. Not just for the lady living in the tiny Seattle apartment, but the homeless people on the bus, the elderly who can't make rent in the article Bella Donna posted, for all the margins barely making it who have lived in that city for generations but are on the edge of being pushed out.

People with money who can afford larger condos, single family homes, or McMansions just seem to absolutely HATE any whiff of high(er) density housing. And they have the political clout to keep most projects dead in the water until we're facing issues like today where Sadiq Khan says London needs over 66,000 new homes a year just to keep up with demand. Or up to 373K new apartments in New York each year just to keep the market "stable".

I've never lived in a whiter, more affluent place than I do now. And when some orange groves were purchased next door to be torn down to make room for about 200 luxery single-story patio home rentals, it was like half my neighbors lost their damn minds. The shrieking about "property values" and "the views" going into the toilet on the Nextdoor app made me seriously question the life choices that led me to this place. (It was also pretty hyprocritical since our own houses used to be those same orange groves).

I just...I just want people to be able to afford to live in either in or near the places they want or need to, and to not have to own a car if they don't want one. New York or Seattle or London doesn't HAVE to be nothing but a maze of concrete and steel high-rises to fit all the people who want to live there. There are a ton of real, viable solutions on the table, some have been there for forever. But the entrenched interests are never going to let them get implemented unless there is some sort of extreme pardigm shifts on how people view their houses as homes, not investments, relationships with their neighbors, and like...being a decent human being trying to make society a little better for everyone.

Another thing that might help A LOT is if more employers would realize they don't need every single employee to come sit at a desk or in a cube 5 days a week to be micro-managed. It's the 21st century damn it. A lot of housing/apt stock could be reallocated if people could live a bit farther out but not have to deal with soul-crushing commutes each day. A lot of people don't really need to be in the same city as their job, they just need a fast, reliable internet connection.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 2:07 PM on February 23, 2018 [18 favorites]


As a fellow RPCV I loved her delusions of “well in Peace Corps I...” that made things seem reasonable.

I once washed my hand in a sidewalk puddle in Denver, CO after eating an orange because the water seemed clean enough and unlikely to give me giardia.
posted by raccoon409 at 2:13 PM on February 23, 2018 [10 favorites]


Leaving aside all the other fascinating stuff in this thread - and as an Old or Nearly Old who has basically no retirement savings and is being rapidly gentrified out of her not exactly coastal but still desirable hometown oh boy do I have the feels - I have been living in 96 square feet since October 10. Now, granted that 96 square feet is on wheels and it moves from place to place and I have extra storage as represented by a pickup truck with a cap (and it’s why I have no retirement savings too) but I never want to do this again. This is not viable for me long term. I may have to - just as an aside, there are a LOT of people living in RVs, I suspect that the proportion of home to recreational use skews real heavily towards the homes - but if I can avoid it I will. I don’t want a lot of space but this has seriously cured me of any tiny house fantasies I ever possessed.

My camper, Amelia, is nice: she is 8’ wide by 12’ long. Just going around from where I’m sitting I have two seats and a table, plenty of cabinet space, a “closet” , a 3 burner gas stovetop, a sink, a tiny refrigerator and a “bathroom” with a toilet and sink. The cozy bed takes up the front of the camper and I have lots of windows. It is great but not enough space for me. I miss my kitchen, particularly the oven, terribly. I miss my spare bedroom / studio even more. 900 square feet, or the size of the main floor of my Asheville house, is completely enough for me and I could see going down to 700 even but 96? I would like to be able to get to the art supplies without hunching on the floor pulling out boxes of tools first. I would like to have counter space, any counter space. Yes, this is doable, particularly if you have access to campground showers (would you like to hear about the unheated ones? I have things to say about them.} and what I'm doing is a choice, an act of incredible privilege and luck and joy, which I try not to lose sight of for a moment, but living in a space this size because it’s all that is out there? No. There has to be a better way.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:13 PM on February 23, 2018 [15 favorites]


I don't think advising youth to stop their whining and move out of the city, where they can be isolated from one another and from centers of culture and political power, is a particularly good strategy for a better tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the way the US electoral system favors land over population means that when people (usually liberal people) pile into big cities, they actually trade away their political power for access to culture and opportunities. (See the tendency for state legislatures to deny local governance to cities, as well as an ever-increasing tilt toward Republican dominance in the US Senate and the Electoral College.)

As the mechanisms for amending the Constitution also favor land over population, the only feasible cure would be some sort of sizable economic and demographic realignment. Maybe (even hopefully?) the increasing costs of the metropolises could spark a migration toward smaller cities, which are more evenly distributed, and thus politically viable, than the large ones.
posted by Iridic at 2:14 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


bawanaal: People living in flyover states (like myself) with a reasonable cost-of-living can only shake their heads in amazement. I just don't get the attraction of sacrificing my quality of life in order to live in (pick the latest, greatest coastal city), and likely never will.

I was born and raised Santa Barbara, California, which is now one of the top ten most expensive places to live (using the "median multiple" approach, which involves taking an area's median house price and dividing it by — the median household income). It's a lovely city with a wide range of amenities, close to Los Angeles but not too close, and coastal. As of writing this comment, the median house price is over a million dollars (Zillow.com link, with dynamic content). That is fooking mental, to borrow UK slang.

That housing price pushes up prices all around the region. Heck, anything in coastal California was prohibitively expensive for me and my wife, two public servants, even before we had kids. We made decent money, in general terms, but we didn't want to be life-long renters, so we moved east, to New Mexico, where we landed in a suburb of the one big city in the state, and our mortgage on a 4 bed, 3 bedroom, two story home is probably less than half of what my brother pays to rent an apartment in Los Angeles.

But there's so much more going on in LA, and even Santa Barbara. NM is not only a fly-over state, it's also a drive-through state. Check most tours, and you'll find a stop or two in Arizona, Colorado, and Texas, the states around New Mexico, but even a metro are of 900,000 people isn't enough to draw most tours. It's not a non-destination, but I'd say 60-80% of the tour lists I see skip this state entirely.

We didn't want a ton of home, but it's the best layout we found in the area we wanted to live. At some point, we may downsize considerably, but for now we enjoy having extra space for family, friends, and even touring bands to stay.

If I was on my own, I'd probably try to squeeze into a little home, because I have the ability to expand and fill any given space. Back in college, I lived in a lazily converted 2 car garage for a while, but when city folks caught on, I moved into a 8x10 foot room. Both times, I filled the space with my stuff, but the smaller room made me compress myself and my stuff.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:23 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


somewhere all that hedge fund money that was sloshing around the real estate bubble has moved into rentals of the properties foreclosed during the last economic crisis - vampires all the way down
posted by kokaku at 2:26 PM on February 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm sure this makes me sound like the greedy American, unwilling to give up his excessive lifestyle in favor of something people all over the world are perfectly happy and comfortable with.

Yeah, this is not true though.

Very few people are actually perfectly happy and comfortable with this sort of very small houses -- and most of them seem to post in this thread --, rather poverty forces them into it, in Seattle as much as in Hong Kong or Mumbai or Lagos. It's only nice if it's a choice you can make freely, not because rents are insane.

Having such a small space means you can't own much, which is neat if you're a jacked into the mainframe twentysomething who has their possessions in the cloud anyway, but not so much if you actually say, like physical books, or like to do stuff in your own house rather than having to go to some dedicated, commercial space for.

Needless to say, it's detrimental to any relationships you might build, let alone raising a family.

Not very accessible either, if you suffer from any sort of disability.

I always get a bit shirty when people extoil the virtues of such small "homes": it's nice that it works for you when you were twenty and living in Germany for six months or something, but normal people would like a place where they can actually stretch their legs without hitting the opposite wall.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:27 PM on February 23, 2018 [20 favorites]


I live alone in a house with 3 bathrooms. It’s fucking great.

Do you have some sort of rotation schedule for pooping in each? Or, maybe just in one, but handwashing in another and showers in the third? This sounds awesome, but also confusing.
posted by asperity at 2:27 PM on February 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


Small places that were built to be small can be pretty nice. My apartment in Japan was under 300sqft and was in a building full of them (14 floors with ~12 apartments per floor). I do admit that it felt small when I first saw it, but after living there a couple years I felt that it was perfectly reasonable for a single person. The current rate for it is under $500 a month in a city that's medium sized.

I wish that here in the SF South Bay that they could start with taller buildings (with studio/1bed units) near transit stations so we could have more options for people who don't want to live with roommates. I think we need to work on having housing for all stages of life.
posted by that girl at 2:29 PM on February 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


I just don't get the attraction of sacrificing my quality of life in order to live in (pick the latest, greatest coastal city), and likely never will.

It's always nice to feel superior by questioning people's choices, but the plain truth is that this is not a problem of individual choices, but of an inherently flawed system that privileges capital over people.

The real solution is social housing, you could call it council housing, where the city or the state builds housing for actual people rather than investors, something that worked out real well here in the Netherlands (or the UK) during the post-war economic booms, but which has been sacrifised on the altar of free market (and baby boomer egoism).
posted by MartinWisse at 2:34 PM on February 23, 2018 [16 favorites]


As an idle experiment I asked Google for a list of US Cities by size. Here's the top 8. I live in the Phx Metro area.

The thing you are missing from that list is new construction vs people moving there. That list looks very different, with Phoenix being #1 on that list, (it's actually *behind* a few cities not on that list for new construction). That's the problem in the US. The largest city in the US (NYC) and #2 (LA) are not generally the #1 & #2 cities for new construction, and it's not because no one is moving there. NYC is #2 actually this year, behind Dallas, which is like 1/5 the population of NYC. LA is behind Houston, Austin, and Phoenix, and those places are besting LA in single family and apartments. Chicago is actually shrinking slightly, but builds plenty for its size. It's the real outlier among major populous and dense US cities.

In the past decade, they have built more homes and apartments in the Houston metro alone than in the entire state of California. The US has real problems once its cities reach a certain density. They get closed to new construction.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:48 PM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]




People with money who can afford larger condos, single family homes, or McMansions just seem to absolutely HATE any whiff of high(er) density housing.

This is 100% true. If anyone needs to get over themselves, it's not young city-dwellers people without money: it's rich, white NIMBYs who won't tolerate high-density housing.

When I travel in Europe and Asia, I'm always struck by how comparatively low-density American housing is. Americans - especially white Americans - seem to be exceptionally allergic to living in high-rises. This distaste has led to zoning policies that prevent new development and reinforce segregation.

I'd welcome suggestions on more reading on the "why are Americans so weirdly opposed to living in high-rises and other forms of high-density housing."
posted by faineg at 2:55 PM on February 23, 2018 [16 favorites]


All this talk about flyover states being a decent alternative is absurd in the context of this article. She could move a mile away and get a nicer place for the same amount of money, but she doesn't want to. I'm guessing that moving to a rural area is somewhere after suicide on her list of options.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:56 PM on February 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


Bella Donna, I love the argument in that article of "We shouldn't put denser housing near transit because people don't use transit!" Seems kind of circular. Some of the other arguments seem like they could be dealt with also (saying that allowing denser development prevents low-income housing confuses me because you could still require a certain % of low-income housing even with denser development).

I liked the counter-proposal of one housing unit per job though.
posted by that girl at 3:00 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


This conversation is adding a really interesting layer to my current reading of Prairie Fires. You know who was forced by economic circumstances to pull up stakes and relocate away from their support systems constantly? The Ingalls family. How did that work out for them? NOT GREAT, BOB.

The U.S. "pack up the wagon or quit your bitchin" pioneer ethos was always based in pure bullshit and crookery and the sooner it dies the better.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:08 PM on February 23, 2018 [27 favorites]


Former B&Bs would make great communal living spaces--everyone shares the kitchen and common spaces but gets their own bedroom and private bath--but the zoning prevents that adaptive reuse in many tourist towns, CBDs, etc. In my vacation destination, which needs affordable rental space badly, there are a growing number of B&Bs on the market, done in as people tire of the hard work including competing with AirBnb. Instead, our surplus B&Bs are getting bought by wealthy retired couples to fulfill their fantasies about the entire extended family spending Christmas together under one roof.
posted by carmicha at 3:14 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Honestly, Blast Hardcheese, I thought the Ingalls family mostly moved because Pa had some unresolved deep mental issues and Ma didn't put her foot down soon enough. I'm pretty sure there was a thread here on the blue not long ago where Pa was basically greatly dumped on to that effect.

That pioneer ethos is what also seems to drive the "go to college out of state, take a job thousands of miles away from your family" that affects many young people in the U.S. too, to some small extent. Our insane drive to split up multi-generational families into bite-sized units has really screwed with housing too, over the last century or so.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 3:19 PM on February 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


My parents did everything "right" - they're in their 70s, house was paid off over 20 years ago, small university town but not real rural and not terribly far, in the 2-4-hour range, drive from Houston and Dallas. Enough money saved to retire on, given a paid-off house and modest lifestyle.

Except their little flyover/drivepast town is dying and they're real old now. All the old industries that employed people there were dependent on the kind of large-human-resources-scale labor and manufacturing that just doesn't exist anymore and the town is just drying up. There were I think three hospitals in town when I was a kid, there's one now. There's a single cardiologist for a town full of old people. Schools that were built and opened when I was a kid are closed. The drugstore pharmacies don't stock a full range of drugs anymore, they sometimes have to wait and have something overnighted. All the things they thought they'd have access to when they were old...are going or gone. They're having trouble buying clothes now, especially dressier stuff for the funerals that happen more and more, because there's just Walmart.

I'm starting to wonder if it's not my generation and Millennials, in those smaller cities and towns, who'll be the tipping point to a universal basic income. Because all those towns are suffering the same loss of manufacturing/ag/distribution work that boomed them in the first place - when there's nothing left but Amazon and they replace their entire distribution workforce with robots, what the fuck are people going to do for work, or for money to buy things for the robots to ship? In large urban areas there's at least service work, but you can't turn every middling little town in the country into a healthcare billing headquarters or defense contractor. With UBI, small towns can go back to being a place you go to maybe spread out a little, have a big yard or whatever, and big cities are for high-density living.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:22 PM on February 23, 2018 [22 favorites]


Some rural areas that do have jobs have serious housing shortages of their own. Please, let's stop with the Magical Soybean Field Solution to housing inequality.
posted by faineg at 3:32 PM on February 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


When I travel in Europe and Asia, I'm always struck by how comparatively low-density American housing is. Americans - especially white Americans - seem to be exceptionally allergic to living in high-rises.

I think high-rises are a good example of how you don't necessarily need to shrink living spaces in order to increase housing density. I'd much rather live in a high rise than in the building I'm in now, which is 2 floors of 500 sq ft apartments. I mean, you're not going to have a three car garage in a high rise, but we also don't need to ask people to learn to love their shoebox apartments, either. Again, it comes down to what we think is a reasonable expectation for a standard of living for individuals and families.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:33 PM on February 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


Americans - especially white Americans - seem to be exceptionally allergic to living in high-rises.

It's not just high-rises, it's also low-rises and mid-rises and accessory dwelling units and duplexes and essentially anything but single-family homes on lots of a certain size (or larger.)

But I do think it's getting better. I attended a public meeting last night on local land use and transportation policy and people (old white people!) were open to the prospect of adding accessory dwelling units to their single-family-home neighborhoods. And maybe even having more multi-family housing options and improved transit and other things that allow more people to live near them.

I don't think these changing attitudes are universal, but I'm looking forward to a meeting next month about a proposed nearby development. There are a lot of people complaining about the idea on Nextdoor, but are those the same ones who show up to meetings? It'll be useful to find out.
posted by asperity at 3:33 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


My new 3 million dollar pad in the CBGB loft makes me real, a real New Yorker,

Sure, dude, that's where we all live.

I don't question people who have a personal preference for living somewhere not the big city. It's not for everyone. Why should it be? But people who think that people who live in the big cities must all be either poser rich people or else dumb millennials deliberately overlooking the great career opportunities in Piqua, OH, are really just showing their own insecurity. I'm a real atheist, a real unmarried adult woman, a real white-collar professional doing real--and, I think, useful to humanity--work at a level I simply would not have the resources to do it in in most other states, and someone with real dear friends who would be far more second-class citizens of the town I just described than I. (I'll leave out the benefits of the city itself, as apparently that is just cool-hunting.) So I work out the balance and live in a sub-500-sq ft walk-up apartment without a washer/dryer, or a dishwasher, but in a place where no one's going to try to put the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall.

I'm actually happier with a smaller place, though I couldn't go much smaller without its starting to have a negative effect on my life. Most middle-class and above Americans, especially those without kids at home, could probably knock 15-20% off their square footage and barely notice the difference. But there is a size where it starts to matter, and so far what I have seen is that most tiny housing in the U.S. does not have a tiny rent corresponding to the reduced quality of life. People seem to have difficulty believing this claim, but it's true, at least in the cities.
posted by praemunire at 3:40 PM on February 23, 2018 [13 favorites]


> I always get a bit shirty when people extoil the virtues of such small "homes": it's nice that it works for you when you were twenty and living in Germany for six months or something, but normal people would like a place where they can actually stretch their legs without hitting the opposite wall.

How exactly are we defining 'normal people', then?

Again, you're free to take umbrage at whatever you like, and I would never try to make the case that everyone who lives in a small space is doing so entirely by choice, but there are benefits and drawbacks to either circumstance, and just because someone can be happy in a space that you define as too small doesn't mean that your preferences are 'normal' and theirs aren't.

It's been quite a while since I saw twenty and I've lived in a wide range of spaces, from a two-storey, multi-bedroomed and -bathroomed stereotype of middle-classness to a tiny room without a kitchen or bath. I can honestly say that given the choice, I much prefer living in a small space to a large one. When I had a bigger place, sure, I had a wall of books and a kitchen full of cookware and a few great armchairs and much assorted stuff I'd accumulated over the course of years. This is also the sort of environment I'd grown up in, and the thought of living someplace that didn't have, say, a dedicated dining room and a full-size bathtub and a spacious kitchen seemed unthinkable.

Until I did it. And realised that so much of what I owned was unnecessary. So much of that space was unused for large periods of time. Much of that stuff was more of a nuisance than a benefit. Living in a smaller space allows me to curate the stuff I have, and keep what's really valuable or important to me. I don't spend ten minutes hunting for my keys and sunglasses or have to run from the second floor to the basement to find that thing that I need. I spend less time cleaning. I can still have a wall of books, and my favourite armchair. I can still work from home, entertain, and enjoy my solitude. It cuts WAY down on impulse purchases.

And when one compares relative merits then, again, personally there's no contest. A bigger home in a suburban/bedroom community that requires owning a car or travelling a significant distance to access services is absolutely not worth the extra space; I'll take a smaller living space in order to be within easy walking/transit distance of the places I want/need to go. I can pop out to the shops for that missing dinner ingredient and be back in fifteen minutes. I can wander home from a night out on foot. If I don't feel like cooking I can go to the café with the good lunch special that's five minutes away. I can supplement my workouts by walking to the gym. Ride the tram for 4-5 stops and be at the opera or the philharmonic.

It's always seemed a bit odd to me how in North America bigger nearly always equates better when it comes to housing, not only for these anecdotal reasons but also because of the allergy to density and the transport and employment issues mentioned in the thread. The fact that an entire article can be written on the pain and humiliation of having to move into a flat the size of a place that many people I know have lived in for years, or decades, without incident or complaint, illustrates the cultural differences and expectations. Most of the people I know elsewhere in the world are pretty happy with smaller living spaces, and even those who choose single-family homes tend to have smaller/more efficient places.
posted by myotahapea at 3:53 PM on February 23, 2018 [12 favorites]


Heh, I live in the heart of one of the largest cities in the USA, so I do not need to be schooled on the benefits of living in a city. I didn't mean to imply that all NYC folks live in 3 million dollar lofts. I meant that it's merely the smart ones who do these days, while the rest tell each other stories of punk rock, rent control and how a friend of a friend knew a friend of Keith Haring that one time. The rest run the rodent-wheel twice as hard for half as many crumbs as he rest of the rats and are proud of this fact.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:55 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


I didn't mean to imply that all NYC folks live in 3 million dollar lofts. I meant that it's merely the smart ones who do these days

um
what
the venn diagram of 'smart' and 'can afford a $3m loft' is definitely not a circle
posted by halation at 4:03 PM on February 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


The venn diagram of 'smart' and 'live with roommates in a tiny, walk-in closet sized apartment in NYC for $2000/month" ' is definitely not a circle either.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:07 PM on February 23, 2018


From the first link: When I got home, the rug I bought unfurled in all its 8-by-10-foot wonder, or at least it almost did, stopping at foot nine, where the corner lapped at the radiator with a tongue that had nowhere to go.

So funny, so sad. I lived in a tiny, demi-legal mother-in-law apartment for seven years. It had a fullsize fridge, a microwave, and no stove whatsoever. I used a microwave, and occasionally, a two-burner hotplate to cook. I had meals sitting on my futon, which I folded up during the day.

It was super-cheap. And having lived with roommates for several years, I was more than willing to live in what was basically a dorm room, if it meant I could live by myself.

Toward the end of my stay there, every time I bought something, something equivalent that I needed less had to go.

I live in a medium-sized house now. I like it.
posted by 41swans at 4:26 PM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


The beginning of this, at least, made me all stupidly nostalgic for my very first apartment all of my own, that was a grand 475 square feet for ~$550 a month. I found the floorplan! My first Room Of Her Own.

This place was special because it was the first place I had on my own after getting out of a six and a half year long horrifically abusive relationship. It was snug and secure and I could see the whole thing from anywhere in there and it was all mine mine mine.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 6:45 PM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


I live alone in a house with 3 bathrooms. It’s fucking great.

Do you have some sort of rotation schedule for pooping in each? Or, maybe just in one, but handwashing in another and showers in the third? This sounds awesome, but also confusing.


We have only two bathrooms, but we almost never use the second, and with the water here it is surprisingly fast that weird stuff starts happening to an unused toilet. With three bathrooms, I'd at least want a cleaning schedule, if not a pooping schedule.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:58 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


If anyone in Seattle wants to be involved in efforts to update the Comprehensive Plan to allow for more housing, and to take part in the general push towards what's being called Welcoming Communities, you could do worse than go to this event (facebook link) at Optimism Brewing on Capitol Hill, March 11th.
posted by tychotesla at 7:22 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Welcome to the rest of the world. I'm changing houses in a couple of months and we're debating whether to pay for location or space. This would be increasing 170 sqft per person inn a 7 people household. We might get to a massive 200 or even 220 sqft if we are very lucky. I know families in way smaller spaces and I grew up in a proper massive house (even by American standards) so I know to my bones - it's who lives there that makes it a home, not the size. But the American thing about large house size is crazy wasteful. Even in the past, those big houses were full of people not just one person or a couple.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:02 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


The venn diagram of 'smart' and 'live with roommates in a tiny, walk-in closet sized apartment in NYC for $2000/month" ' is definitely not a circle either.

I don't think you know what you're talking about.
posted by windbox at 9:03 PM on February 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


My First Room of Her Own

During my 30 years as a road warrior, I played a game called "Could I live in this hotel room?" which involved mentally rearranging furniture, placing imaginary bookshelves, etc. I came to appreciate the design details that help define discrete spaces and functions. I think Made of Star Stuff's studio looks pretty great!
posted by carmicha at 10:31 PM on February 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


Responding to so many things up above: How Singapore Fixed Its Affordable Housing Problem. 80% of housing in Singapore is built and subsidized by the government. Really interesting system, as are many things in Singapore.
posted by rednikki at 12:14 AM on February 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Made of Star Stuff, that layout looks great! I have never lived in large spaces. In high school my mom and I lived in a modest, 2-bedroom apartment (we had started out in a 1-bedroom and she had given me the bedroom). When I came back after a year abroad, I made a big dinner for my friends in my bedroom (with the mattress leaning against the wall) because there wasn't room in the kitchen for more than 4 people. At the moment, I know a family of 5 who is living in a roughly 400-square-foot 1 bedroom apartment here in Stockholm. It kind of works because 2 of the 5 are under 5 years old. But I don't think it's a sustainable situation in the long run.

asperity, thanks for mentioning annexes! In California, so-called Accessory Dwelling Units (aka granny flats) are poised to become thing with new laws that came into effect just this year. But it has been a fight, and it's unclear how things will play out. One issue that I haven't seen raised yet is the difficulty of getting financing for smaller buildings. I can't remember all the details but a couple of years back I read about this architecture school in the south that had developed a truly affordable 1-bedroom home that people could afford on an income of 600 bucks a month or some such.

This is an innovative school and it wanted to create a model of housing that could be affordable even for people living on Social Security. It was meant for small town and rural areas (presumably) that had inexpensive lots available. The home was less than 400-square feet and build with Home Depot-grade stuff, live shelves on brackets instead of cabinets for the kitchen.

The school made the plans freely available and guess what--people couldn't build the house because banks would not make loans for construction because they deemed such loans unprofitable. It took a bank just as much time to vet and approve a small loan for a house like this as a MacMansion, so banks were not interested. Moreover, as most of you know, lots of regions have planning regulations that do not allow homes below a particular size.

I'm just going to say, as someone who grew up poor, was middle-class for a few years, and is now back to the margins, that my single largest goal as a younger adult was to eventually own my own home because I wanted something of my own. While it is true that there can be too many people in any given space, 350-square feet of space can be plenty for one or two people, especially if it is something that they own themselves. But there is not big profits to be made off of the kind of basic housing this architecture school developed, so the real estate industry, city planners, banks, etc., are basically telling us to go fuck ourselves.

That makes me really sad for the people who need better housing and could afford it if the regulations were more flexible. So I hope lots of things change to support smaller dwellings. Not because I think everyone should live smaller, but because we need more choices besides sidewalk, SRO, tiny home, and mansion.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:33 AM on February 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


Manhattan has become a weird Disneyland for tourists and millionaire douchebags.

Parts of it have, sure. But there are still huge parts of Manhattan full of poor, working class, all stripes of middle class, etc. Those just aren't the "cool" neighborhoods. When I moved to my neighborhood at the top of the UWS 25+ years ago, everything north of 96th street was considered a dangerous shithole. I literally witnessesed a bloody murder directly in front of my building less than a month after moving here. But this was what I could afford. Now the neighborhood, while certainly economically mixed, is a lot swankier. Lucky me, but I also put down roots and invested the time. There are still plenty of neighborhoods north and northeast of me that are like my neighborhood was in 1990. Meanwhile, when I take a cab to La Guardia I still pass vacant buildings with their windows boarded up in East Harlem. So don't tell me there aren't affordable places to live in Manhattan or NYC overall. You just don't want to live in those places.
posted by slkinsey at 5:28 AM on February 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


Bella Donna, do you mean the Rural Studio? They're awesome.
posted by ITheCosmos at 8:59 AM on February 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Seattle and moved to Minneapolis when I was done with school in 2006.

The Seattle I knew was already dying by that point. The hole-in-the-wall restaurants were becoming gentrified places for white people, downtown was turning into a giant outdoor mall, and all the artists without trust funds were priced out. Literally every single person I knew left over the last 10 years. Basically the only way to live in Seattle today is to be a software engineer, have family money, or live with many many roommates. I know MARRIED LAWYERS who were priced out.

Minneapolis is pretty sweet. I know people in many different professions! My neighbors are doctors, and teachers, and plumbers, and a cab driver, and a retired guy, and a guy who roasts coffee! There's a variety of stuff within walking distance that isn't obscenely expensive!

Anyway, there are a lot of levels between Seattle/SF/NYC and living in Farmville, and it's worth considering them.
posted by miyabo at 10:28 AM on February 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


ITheCosmos, thank you! I was referring to the Rural Studio and its 20K House, which may actually run more than 130K depending on where you live. There's an interesting discussion about it here. Also, because I enjoy shelter porn, here's a link to a foldable, flatpack A-frame home made by an Italian company that can be assembled, in theory, by a crew in 7 hours. Affordable ... maybe.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:58 PM on February 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


One issue that I haven't seen raised yet is the difficulty of getting financing for smaller buildings.

I'm excited that one possibility Denver's exploring to increase the housing supply while trying to prevent housing displacement is assistance for financing on accessory dwelling units. It seems like it could be a really good way to allow people to stay in their homes and build wealth, as long as it isn't just landlords building a second rent house on the same property (and a requirement that one of the buildings be owner-occupied would cut down on that.)
posted by asperity at 1:06 PM on February 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I was worried the stuff in my 160 sq foot storage unit would fit in my new studio. Then I realized the studio has 540 sq feet and I could make it work. It does work, and it is not too expensive where I moved. But, now the place is for sale, and maybe the new owner wants more money, who knows. I will be priced out if they do. I have a part share of a back yard, and great neighbors. The place was designed as a duplex, and it is nice. I love the place it has great light. I also have a VW camper if things go to hell.
posted by Oyéah at 6:29 PM on February 24, 2018


I lived in a ~160 sqft microapartment for 8 months, paying $860 a month - I paid an exhorbitant lease break fee when I moved to accept a job, but it was still cheaper than the ~$1100 month to month price. I finished my dissertation in that room, and did skype interviews in a carrel at the public library because my desk faced my three-foot-wide closet area. I had my own bathroom but the ovens/stoves were in shared areas (to avoid zoning rules requiring parking).

But the thing that got to me was that these apartments, that come furnished with a twin bed on a fold-out cot in the only place it will fit and still allow you to open your mini fridge, can and did legally house two people - a young couple with a small dog, a divorcing guy with half-custody of his seven-year-old, a woman and her elementary age son, a woman trying to fit her baby's stroller down the narrow hallways. They also allowed multiple pets - one woman somehow fit two energetic boxers in her apartment, another guy had two hounds, several people had two cats. That was something I never saw represented in articles about these places, that some people are sharing a space that small.
posted by momus_window at 6:31 PM on February 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


A Stockholm shower is a handheld shower head that you use next to the toilet or sink because there is no actual shower but there is a drain in the floor.

OH! Like the Shower/bathroom combo in an Amtrak Sleeper car. I'm a big guy and there was just no way I was going to be able to shower in that.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:31 PM on February 24, 2018


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