In Seattle, developers are racing to build what has become a wildly popular new type of apartment complex: “congregate housing.” Miniature studios averaging 150 square feet are so tightly packed that foldaway beds must be stowed during the day. Instead of an eat-in kitchen, residents can sometimes share cooking space with 30 other people down the hall.
Could what developers are calling “co-living for the middle class” help keep down San Francisco housing costs? If Seattle’s experiment is any measure, it might bring thousands of basic housing units priced below $1,000 per month, aimed at young single people who might not miss the extra elbowroom.
San Francisco has not exactly embraced the idea. In 2012, Supervisor Scott Wiener proposed allowing the minimum area of an apartment to go below 220 square feet. But after objections from neighborhood activists, concerned that profiteers would take advantage of the overheated rental market, allowed a maximum of 375 to be built citywide.
Two years later, Patrick Kennedy of developer Panoramic Interests, floated the idea. He is the first one to begin building micro-apartments. He is halfway through construction of 120 units at 1321 Mission St., and expects to start leasing in a year.
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