Tiny Living Spaces in San Francisco

San Francisco is thinking about getting into the “micro studio” business—just like New York! But S.F. would like their micro studios to be even more micro: 220-square-foot apartments that would rent for $1,200 to $1,500 a month. Tech companies like Twitter and Zynga have decided to set up their headquarters in S.F. rather than Silicon Valley, and their well-paid employees are helping to drive up the rents in the city. Some affordable housing advocates point out that this may help some young tech-savvy people find a place to crash in the city, but doesn’t really do anything to help families who are being priced out. Which is a good point! But if you look at the artist rendering of the proposed micro studio, it looks like having your bed next to the fridge will make it very easy for you to get a midnight snack.


17 Comments / Post A Comment

Megano! (#124)

Dear people who think microstudios are the way to go: FUCK YOU.

cmcm (#267)

It says currently the smallest allowed is 220 feet squared, which is like 67m2? Right? I lived in Paris for a bit, and it is not at all uncommon for studio apartments to be like 20m2.

Have I done some math wrong or something?

Nick (#1,548)

@cmcm 220 ft² = 20.44 m².

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@cmcm According to Dr. Google 220 square feet is 20m2. I know it’s more common for apartments to be smaller abroad, and I appreciate the finer points of small living, but my concern about these spaces is primarily that they’re not tied to any rent control/subsidy that would ensure they stayed affordable. And of course, that they will create incentives for builders to construct continually smaller and more prison-cell like spaces for young people. The problem isn’t that our apartments are too big; it’s that we can’t afford them!

cmcm (#267)

@MuffyStJohn Oh, I just converted 220 feet -> meters and hence I am stupid at numbers.

I totally agree, the solution to unaffordable housing is not to make housing smaller, but to make it affordable.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@cmcm Haha I fail so hard at math I just asked the Internetz to answer the question for me. At least you tried! I give up on numbers many years ago. :)

goldenhandcuffs (#2,286)

I am a huge fan of the micro apartment trend. People don’t have to live in very expensive cities — it is a choice. If large houses/apartments are extremely important to you, then those are available to you in many other places besides NY and SF. However, if you choose to live in an extremely desirable city, I think the option of small apartments is an excellent alternative to 4 roommates in a 2 bedroom situation. I have lived in a 280 sf studio in NYC (with my SO!) for 5 years now, and I can tell you that it is completely fine once you adjust. We thought about moving to a bigger place, but in the end kept our wonderful tiny apartment and bought a place several hours outside the city for the cost of a parking spot in NY. I think diversifying the housing market is a good thing.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@goldenhandcuffs I agree to an extent, but for many people moving to large, expensive cities, they are doing so because that’s where the jobs are. And unfortunately, income does not always match the cost of living in these areas.

I work in public policy. Professionally, it only really makes sense for me to live in DC right now. I don’t earn a DC salary, so I contribute about half of my income to rent – and I already live in a microstudio (250 sq ft). I make it work because I love my job more than I hate my apartment. Again, I am all about small living, and I appreciate the focus on ensuring that space is well-utilized, but there is a great need for cities to find ways to make existing housing stock more affordable for residents – singles, couples, families, everyone.

JanieS (#1,826)

@goldenhandcuffs Yeah, if by ‘choice’ you mean the choice between having a job and NOT having a job. Do you really think its so easy to just pick up and move to Topeka? You really think employers in Milwaukee are seriously considering candidates who are applying from 2000 miles away? Because I can assure you that they are not.

Tuna Surprise (#118)


I think it’s a great idea – but it would only seem to work if they built a high volume of units (at least several thousand). If you flood the low end of the market with tons of housing, it theoretically should keep the prices lower.

goldenhandcuffs (#2,286)

@MuffyStJohn I completely agree. I think there should be a more concerted effort by cities to develop affordable housing for families as well as individuals. My point was directed more towards people who believe that these apartments are too small. I just think that they are step in the right direction, but certainly not a solution. I also think that people think they need a lot more space than they did a generation or two ago. My father, his parents, and his grandfather all lived in a 1 bedroom apartment in an inexpensive (in the 1930s) area of Brooklyn. They did that for 18 years. Now, every child needs his or her own room. I think goals need to be adjusted on both sides. The fact is, these cities are incredibly dense, and affordable living spaces will be small. What is wrong with encouraging more of those types of spaces?

JanieS (#1,826)

If I could afford a $1200/month rent, I could probably afford to move to Oakland and buy a car. Also – fuck San Francisco in its entirety.

jfruh (#161)

My first year as a grad student at UC Berkeley, I lived in Manville Apartments, a University-owned complex for grad and law students. It was brand new when I moved in (1996) and studios were 250-300 sq. ft., and that’s pretty fucking tiny. It was a weird sort of worst of both worlds situation in that it was billed kind of as a dorm (and was thus tiny) but the apartments were full and had bathrooms and kitchens and thus nobody used shared spaces and you never met anybody and there was no sense of community. Every day I switched my futon from bed mode to couch mode when I woke up because otherwise there wouldnt’ really be any place to walk around the apartment. On the other hand, the bathroom was shockingly large, proportionally — it even had a full tub instead of just a shower stall. I questioned some of the prioirties that went into it.

For the ’96-’97 school year this was $600/month. Today it’s apparently $1,034. This is right in downtown Berkeley, within very easy walking distance of campus, so it’s probably in line with what you’d pay per square foot for apartments there, but you’d think the school would subsidize things a bit for their impoverished grad students? Anyway, needless to say I did not re-up for the next year.

Look, rents are insanity when the people we need to run the city (restaurant workers, sanitation workers, teachers, etc.) cannot afford to live in the city. We can’t all be college-educated tech workers, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get to live within city limits. What the hell is happening??

selenana (#673)

@Jake Reinhardt Agree – and not everyone moves *to* the city. Some people are actually from NY and SF and it sucks when locals are priced out by comparatively rich interlopers.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@selenana this is what I think about often. I’m a grad student, and came to Toronto (not as crazy as SF or NYC for prices) and knew I’d be putting a lot of money towards rent. I think restaurant workers work harder than I do (dated one), more hours, and less pay. At least in Ontario teachers get paid better… but everyone else?

fake coffee snob (#2,227)

I’m confused what those who say housing should be cheaper, then, propose we should do: according to basic supply/demand, for the price of housing to fall, there needs to be increased supply or decreased demand.

I feel like super urban cities like NYC or SF kind of function like giant downtown areas, when in cities with traditional downtowns many of the people that are needed to make the downtown function live in satellite residential neighborhoods. Seems like saying that if people want houses, or space, given the number of people it takes to run a city vs. the square feet of housing possible (excluding massive, expensive infrastructural changes) then they need to move to the ‘burbs and that’s okay.

I do realize, though, that car/gas costs can make suburbs prohibitive as well – the logical answer to me is to make better public transportation systems to them, like central trains that connect to good bus systems.

Comments are closed!