SF supes approve 220-square-foot micro-apartments

SF Board of Supervisors
San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener met with fellow board members Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 at City Hall to discuss the finalization of building micro-units downtown in an effort to provide more affordable housing. Photo by Jessica Worthington / Xpress

They say good things come in small packages, but perhaps not for housing.

San Francisco’s limited housing market will soon include micro-apartments in an effort to provide more affordable options to technology workers and students.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has approved building micro-units, shrinking the minimum size for apartments to a mere 220 square feet. Even at this size, these apartments would not be the smallest in the country. There is a 78-square-foot apartment and a 90-square-foot apartment in Manhattan, N.Y.

At a Board of Supervisors meeting Nov. 20, District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener said he believed the units would be beneficial for those who can’t afford one-bedroom or studio apartments. The unit prices are likely to range from $1,300 to $1,500 a month.

A hearing was held Dec. 4 to finalize the approval of the micro-units.

“This legislation is by no means a complete solution, but it is one piece of the puzzle,” Wiener said. “We have a housing affordability crisis in San Francisco. One-bedroom apartments are going for $2,500 or even $3,000 a month.”

Some SF State students liked the idea of the micro-apartments, but said the decision to move was dependent on when and where they would be built.

For students living on campus, the residence halls are 180 square feet and cost roughly $1,200 a month with a meal plan, according to the SF State Housing website. In comparison, the micro-apartments would have a kitchen, bathroom and closet area, which would leave approximately 150 square feet of living space.

“We’ve had a housing affordability problem in San Francisco for many years and it’s even worse than it normally is,” Wiener said. “We need flexibility in our housing policy to make sure we are producing enough housing and various types of housing to meet our diverse housing views in San Francisco.”

Jeff Cretan, legislative aide to Wiener, expanded on his reasoning behind the proposition for these micro-units.

“The reason the supervisor introduced this legislation was due to the continuing housing shortage and rising rental costs in San Francisco,” Cretan said. “While we have government-sponsored affordable housing programs, we also need to find ways to make market rate options more affordable.”

According to Wiener, these units would allow students who live in cramped apartments to live alone and pay less rent.

Ben Esteves, an SF State freshman, lives in the dorms and said the micro-units would mean an alternative to being crammed in with bunch of roommates.

“If I’m thinking of going off campus, I think that’d be fine. I wouldn’t have to worry about (the room) being too full,” Esteves said. “I don’t think I could handle seven roommates.”

Supervisor David Campos voted in favor of the new micro-units, but was concerned with proposed prices.

“I have to say that this, for me, has not been a clear cut issue,” Campos said. “I agree with Supervisor Wiener that we need to provide different alternatives and different types of housing. But you’re still talking about very small units being very expensive. As we’re building these micro-units, are we, in a way, creating or exacerbating the problem by setting a pretty high bar in terms of how expensive housing is?”

SF State sophomore Michelle Jones agreed with Campos regarding the price. She said she would consider living in the units depending on when they were built.

“If they’re built in the next year, maybe, because it would be like living in the dorms” Jones said. “I think my only issue is the price, but otherwise it sounds like a good idea.”

However, Cretan said nothing has been set in stone.

“As to the where and when they are being built, that’s up to real estate development process,” Cretan said. “They can go where the zoning allows and where they developers decide they should go.”

There will be a maximum of 375 of these units built in San Francisco, according to Cretan.