Boise, ID

Are Micro-Apartments the New Rental Trend in Boise?

Stuart Gustafson
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I wrote an article three weeks ago titled, “Affordable Housing is Moving out of Boise” ( In that article, I cited a study by that showed that the average 883 square foot two-bedroom apartment in Boise was renting for $1,324 a month. That’s a lot of money for that small size of a living unit.

Some developers are hoping to cash in on the concept of providing smaller, more affordable, units called micro-apartments.
Image from via ALC Architecture

Last month, the Boise City Council approved a 71-unit proposal in the dead-grass and weed-filled lot south of the small business complex at the southwest corner of Cole and Emerald, next to the Boise Towne Square Mall. The apartment complex would include studio and one-bedroom apartments ranging from 338 square feet up to 542 square feet. The proposed rents for these micro-apartments start at around $1,050 per month for the studio.

338 Square Feet = 17 by 20

While the rent might be more affordable than “average” rents of $1,324 per the first paragraph, do you realize how small 338 square feet are? That is just about 17 feet by 20 feet, the size of my living room (and my house is 60 years old, and it’s not huge!). In that space, the renter (and it’s hard to imagine more than one person living there) would have a bed (possibly fold out from the wall); a closet; a bathroom with shower, toilet, and sink, and a cooking and eating area. A living room? That’s highly unlikely unless you sit on the bed to watch television. Each unit would also have its own designated parking space, and at least that space isn’t counted in the 338 number.

Another [possible] project for micro-apartments involves the conversion of motel rooms to small living units. The Boise City Council is expected to hold a hearing on May 3rd to review a proposal by a developer from Portland, Oregon, who wants to convert an 88-unit former Howard Johnson Motel near the I-84 freeway into micro-apartments. The developer said that these units would all be “studio efficiency apartments” of a similar (or same) size. That size has not been made public, but is probably included in the developer’s application for a rezoning permit.

The rezoning permit is required because the current zoning is for short-term residency of up to 30 days, certainly not viable for renting apartments. The hotel to be converted is currently vacant, meaning there is no tax or other revenue going from it to the city or any other jurisdiction. Converting the building into apartments might not yield the same type of tax revenue to the city as it gets from short-term lodging establishments (motels and hotels), but the city could always add a stipulation to the permits to require the developer to remit certain taxes or other fees to the city as a condition of the new permit.

It’s a Hot Trend

Micro-apartments are a hot trend, according to a Motley Fool article. Given the source of the article, it’s understandable that it is mostly focused on the investment aspect of building and/or owning micro-apartments. But the article does give a good breakdown on how some builders make these small spaces seem “bigger”:

> High ceilings so the room seems larger

> Large windows for more light and brightness (but they also reduce wall space

> Common areas such as storage units and laundry rooms

> Fold-up or loft beds to save previous floor space
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It is hard for me to imagine living in a sub-400 square foot apartment, but I am fortunate that I don’t have to think about it. For a young single who has not yet accumulated “lots of stuff,” a micro-apartment in Boise might be just the option for him or her to be able to live alone and still be able to afford an occasional dining out meal in Boise.

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Articles on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday about travel, relevant local/regional items, some finance. Always with a slant to ask you to think.

Boise, ID

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