What It’s Like to Live Near a Micro-Apartment Building
Much of the controversy surrounding the addition of micro-apartments in Seattle involved what might happen should the micro-apartment dwellers move into neighborhoods that had theretofore been the habitat of dwellers of single-family and other more conventional housing types. While we’ve heard one account of what it’s like to live in a micro-apartment, we have not heard as much about what it’s like to live near one of the buildings. Were the protesters right?
After a couple years of living next to a micro-apartment building in Seattle’s popular Capitol Hill area, one of those more conventional house-dwellers, Jason Weill, decided to report whether the fears had any basis in truth. His account is something of a mixed bag. In many ways, he confirmed many of the concerns, but in other ways, he seemed untroubled about their impact–at least weighed against the benefits the building brings.
Fittingly, the first point he brings up is parking. He writes, “A corner of my building’s parking lot has been turned into an impromptu aPodment [micro-apartment] loading zone, annoying some of my neighbors.” That said, he writes that parking was a problem before the building moved in and it’s unclear whether the situation got any worse. It should be noted that he is: 1. a single male from all we can gather, and 2. a non-car owner. If he had a family or a car, his perspective might be different.
Since Seattleites don’t typically have air conditioning, he reports that there’s been an uptick in noise from the building’s roof deck and balconies in the summer months. Though again, he doesn’t sound especially troubled by it.
His last point–and perhaps most important one–is that the building has maintained the neighborhoods “class diversity.” Beyond the fear of diminished parking, many of the micro-apartment protests seemed tinged with a “I don’t want those type of people affecting my property values.” The stereotypical micro-apartment dweller is younger and less settled than the typical single family or condo dweller. In fact, Weill thinks this stereotype worked in his favor. He was able to purchase his place easier because of fears about what type of people the building–which was going up when he bought–would bring to the neighborhood. And Weill confirms that the building, whose rents range from $600-1200 and have three month leases available, has “attracted a surprisingly broad mix of students, full-time workers, and recent college grads saving up for their first real apartment.” Rather than seeing these different types of folks as a blight, he seems encouraged that there is an opportunity for the non-well-heeled to get into a nice neighborhood.
What Weill gets that many don’t is that having a diversity of housing types–and resident types–is something to embrace, not fear. He also grasps the greater context of Seattle’s housing market. He writes, “As of 2013 the city had added 15,000 jobs year-over-year while only 9,000 housing units were expected to become available for each of the next five years.” These people–many of whom don’t have the resources for conventional housing–have to live somewhere they can afford. The micro-apartments provide that somewhere. Weill asks, why shouldn’t they be in my backyard?