Seattle aPodments

Cash strapped minimum wage workers and students in the Seattle area are seeking and welcoming more affordable housing in their city, but the explosion of the aPodment micro housing units in Seattle is drawing new criticism in this dense metropolitan area. City officials are claiming that these 200 square feet tiny units are unregulated and skirt the city’s building laws.

Many of the aPodments built by Calhoun Properties offer downtown amenities like private bathrooms and kitchenettes, lofts, security, private decks, access to public transportation, skylights, granite countertops and shared amenities like BBQs, roof decks and ADA accessible group kitchens. Some of these tiny spaces also come with furniture and utilities paid all for around $500-$750 a month. All this in a city where rent prices are around $1,200 a month.

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The city is concerned that these more condensed forms of housing, which only require a building permit, increase the density of a neighborhood but don’t provide additional parking. They are also concerned that there is no design review before construction and have asked for a short-term moratorium on building these types of units until they can decide how to regulate them.

Micro-housing developers defend these units by stating that many people who live in downtown areas want to be closer to public transportation, shops and city amenities, but don’t want to pay higher rental prices. The idea has become so popular, that other units are being planned in Portland, Ore., California and New Jersey.

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Photos by aPodments/Calhoun Properties

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Thomas Giacomelli - February 3, 2014 Reply

This is a good idea! I think most city zoning and building regulations are there to protect property value with little or no regard for the environment or quality of life issues. Some building regulations are there for safety reasons and are required. As far as parking, if there is no place to park your car, you probably won’t have one. If you must have one, you can choose to live someplace else. We love our no restrictions rural micro-house and think even some urban dwellers will love theirs too. My only suggestion, find a way to make these own-able instead of rent-able.
Thomas Giacomelli
http://www.lyvfree.com

    donna - February 4, 2014 Reply

    Good comment. And LoL to the part about:

    They are also concerned that there is no design review before construction and have asked for a short-term moratorium on building these types of units until they can decide *how to regulate them*.

      Nanci - February 8, 2014 Reply

      Wonderful! More city rules and regulations! As if we aren’t regulated enough between the city county, state and federal governments. Whatever happened o our freedoms?

curt - February 3, 2014 Reply

citys are greedy! more taxes! that is all they want! what about what the people want? great idea finally people who think outside the box!

    Shan - February 3, 2014 Reply

    So what do taxes pay for? roads, sidewalks, bus system, sewer and water infrastructure, making sure your abode was built to fire and other standards. to think of a few important things.

      Kat - February 3, 2014 Reply

      It is a great idea but I think we need to consider the existing infrastructure in place before we just chuck all these people in the area. There needs to be sufficient public transportation facilities, etc before the flood the area with people beyond capacity. Hopefully the taxes are appropriately allocated to support this growth.

peter diemond - February 3, 2014 Reply

Great idea. I’d live in one without hesitation………..

alice h - February 3, 2014 Reply

Using lack of parking spaces as an excuse not to build is feeble. A lot of the people likely to live in one of these don’t own cars. The walkability and public transit access are part of the appeal. Providing space for a few share cars nearby might be handy.

dave cearley - February 3, 2014 Reply

they wring their hands and talk about helping citizens but what they’re really concerned about is maximizing tax revenue

Selena - February 3, 2014 Reply

Parking?!? Most DT Seattleites I know use public transportation, Flex cars, or bicycles and some don’t own cars.
I think the city is more ticked that they won’t earn as much from “regulating”.

I wonder if this would work in Kitsap County…

Bear - February 3, 2014 Reply

If Seattle or other cities are worried about the increase population but not the parking availability,perhaps they should just allow that building around public transportation thereby eliminating the need for more parking. That affordability is essential to keeping a nice balance of housing to keep a diverse neighborhood

Sonia - February 3, 2014 Reply

They have a point BUT this is a perfect example of how the market is pushing back on ridiculously high prices.

Greg - February 3, 2014 Reply

We have apartments like this in the UK, they are called bedsits, but they are nowhere near as nice as those above. Usual as a result of landlords carving up other larger buildings. I lived in a two bed version as a student and that was a 6 bedroom semi detached house that was turned into 4 flats for 13 people. The biggest issue was trash. We didn’t mind so much that the refrigerator sat on the carpet in the living area, or that we didnt have a window in the main living area, nor that one bedroom, the bathroom and the hallway was made out of what was once a corridor. This solution seems much better. Purpose built. I wouldn’t mind knowing what is under the sleeping platform.

elisabeth in CT - February 3, 2014 Reply

These are basically upscale SRO units – a longtime staple of most urban environments. Cities need to get on board, do the planning and provide the infrastructure necessary to support this kind of housing – without it, the only thing being created are future skid rows. Well designed common areas like parks, affordable transportation and parking will go much farther in making life in downtown areas not only usable, but attractive.

Jan - February 3, 2014 Reply

Wonderful idea! 🙂 Though a couple of things surprise me – for a West Coaster $1200 for rent is fairly low to average and not that outrageous. But I can see the need for lower rent where students are lower wage workers are concerned. Also, Seattle really isn’t like NY as far as ‘no need for a car’ goes. Providing parking would be an added benefit. I agree with the above post for common areas – it would go a long way in helping with long-term ascetics. My friend and I were talking about an idea like this for low-income housing here in SoCal and adding areas such as a park,, a community center, garden and so forth. Hopefully cities will catch on to ideas like this.

P Smith - February 3, 2014 Reply

Follow the money. You can bet the farm that the bellyaching is being driven by those with profit motives, those paying politicians to gripe – the construction industry, those who want more property taxes, those who want to sell cars, etc.

If people can’t afford $1200/month in rent, what difference does it make that there are no parking spaces? People who work minimum wage can’t afford cars in the first place.

    Marianna - February 3, 2014 Reply

    Uh, I make 39k and I can’t afford $1200 rent. That’s half my paycheck.

    Kara - February 5, 2014 Reply

    Seriously? I’m a professional, married to a professional, and our combined income is over 100k. With student loans, and, yes, car payments, we couldn’t afford 1200 a month. Your ” minimum wage” comment is insulting and ignorant on too many levels to go into here.

Gerri Alexander - February 3, 2014 Reply

We lived in Pasadena where they allow old houses to be divided up and rented out but didn’t require people have a place to park. It impacted everyone who lived or visited on that street. The city didn’t care, they regularly went through and have out parking tickets. People weren’t told that when they moved in. Parking could have been planned in, but the city made a profit on it.

deryk - February 3, 2014 Reply

In 2012 I lost the sailboat i lived on from Hurricane Sandy. I got into housing (HUD) in the town i work for…ecent place cheap $750 a month, 13 months later they tell me my rent is going up to $887, then in december 2014 up another $130 every december till it gets to $1400. I dont make that kind of money…I would gladly live in 1 of these for $750 a month!

Michelle - February 3, 2014 Reply

There are valid complaints about parking, as the parking complaints started after the tenants moved in. The apodments are scattered throughout Seattle, and affect multiple neighborhoods. However, if a parking solution can be arranged, I think this is a great idea. Plenty of people want to live in the city and don’t need a huge living space, but normally can’t afford the rates charged for full sized apartments (or just don’t want to waste money).

Petra S. - February 3, 2014 Reply

Odds are the folks renting these pods don’t own cars. These are the types that don’t want to own cars. Therefore, they need to revise the parking to housing equation. I once worked at a business that was remodeling their building. I found out that in that city there was a building code mandated 20 parking spots per toilet. That’s right, if you put in a restroom with 2 stalls, you needed to add 20 parking spaces. Therefore, the restrooms got labeled laundry room on the building plans.

MisterScratch - February 3, 2014 Reply

I am so tired of these over priced cities making excuses on why this has to be this way and that way has to be that way.
Seems such a sad truth that this nation forgot one basic liberty. The right to pursue happiness.
In short this is one of the main factors as to why im stuck in some place I cannot stand being in an area that has barely any contact. I am glad this change is happening even if it is not happening here but then again Ohio is slow and to back wards in the mental dept to even come up with such out side the box solutions.

Nicely done even for the small space as this is.
Oh and by the way not every one has to own a car.
That is a post 1950 s consumer culture status symbol.
Some of us live in the real world if we like it or not it still does not change the fact of that is how it is.

David R - February 3, 2014 Reply

I agree that affordable housing is important. I also agree with the need for some taxes and housing regulations. Back in the 1930-50s mobile homes were the answer to affordable housing – with no taxes and very few regulations “one could live like a King”. I think we are going through another cycle similar to the last century, but in a better way.

TessDragon - February 3, 2014 Reply

Who wants to live all piled up on top of each other like an ant hill. Wheres the land to grow food for each of us. Wheres the space outside?

Richard Bryant - February 3, 2014 Reply

The comment from TG about cars and no parking is really off the mark, especially in our small community of Corvallis, OR. The surge in university attendance in our small community is crushing traditional neighborhoods under the weight of university students bringing cars when they move here and the community being unwilling to require adequate parking places for all the residents living in each of the new and converted living units. When a multi-unit apartment building is constructed and each apartment in the building has 3-5 bedrooms, the number of cars expected will out-strip the zoning requirements for parking. To compound the student parking problem, the university continues to build dorms and academic buildings without replacing the parking that is lost to new buildings.

Actually – I like the aPODMENTS concept as shown. And they could be even better with more attention paid to some of the interior details and selected appliances. But parking is a problem that needs to be solved by the developer.

For an interesting comparison of small living spaces, explore the “CabInn” concept as used in Denmark. These are not apartments. More like a dorm in size and concept that provide an interesting alternative to traditional hotels.

RB

Angela - February 3, 2014 Reply

In the northern Virgnia area (use Washington DC as the center point and draw circles ever further outward) parking is given no thought until after a residential or commercial area is built up. Then only when people scream loud enough about parking and traffic is anything done about it. I lived in the Newport News area for about 6 years and was amazed that as residential or commerical areas built up the parking and roads were built to cope with the added traffic. But as others have stated governments only think about how much money they can take from us, everything else is a distant second.

Sara - February 3, 2014 Reply

There is an apodment going up on my block right now. I asked the lead construction guy about the rent and he said they were going to go for 1000 dollars/month. AND they are only 70 square feet and a shared kitchen between 8 units. I hope nobody is dumb enough to move in.

PS about the cars – believe it or now – sometimes people want to get the hell out of the city. We are in the PNW – mountains, rivers, lakes, coasts – what’s the point of living here if you don’t take advantage of the outdoors?

Wendy Posselt - February 3, 2014 Reply

New Yorkers in high rise apartments don’t have adequate parking and this feeds use of public transportation. Seattle is already an car-repellent city. These are beautiful. Finally good design made affordable!

Paul Jenkins - February 3, 2014 Reply

They look like a really good idea to me! Very well designed and perfectly habitable. In any case, I suspect that this is exactly the way things are going to have to go in the future, what with population increases and less and less space per capita.

Mary Guthery - February 3, 2014 Reply

I push the city….BS Button!
The city is concerned about additional parking…NOT, it’s the additional $700.00 a month difference in rent that they are concerned over.
And halting the future building until they can “Regulate it” equates to “Get our Hands in it.”
Tell it the way it is….It’s purely a “GREED ISSUE.” What ever happened to “Land of the FREE?”
Watch out parking for such units might range from $500 – $700 a month if the City has it’s way!!!

Marydon Arthur - February 3, 2014 Reply

I can understand part of the concern by the city if the total square footage in the unit doesn’t reach the threshold for building codes to come into play. Also, density within the inner city could be an issue. These appear to be rental units and without the regulations there is a chance that these will deteriorate rapidly. Parking is always an issue for inner cities maybe not as much for the resident as for guests. The primary function, despite what we think, of the employees in the building division of any city is not taxes, but consumer/individual safety. The developer is the one making the big bucks and they don’t build things like these without making money and they seem to have found a loophole in the building codes to by-pass regulations. We all seem to forget why building regulations came into being and it wasn’t because of taxes. IF these are not built properly then people get hurt, and tell me the developer is concerned “primarily” with safety, because I’ve never met one that was. There is definitely a need in every big city for this type of housing solution, but please, let’s make sure it is safe and the building codes apply. Taxes don’t make up for any loss of life!

Case - February 3, 2014 Reply

I like the ePodmant idea. Affordable housing for minimum wage workers needs to be addressed in every community. When located properly near mass transit or within walking or biking of essential amenities they work very well.

A simple solution to the parking issue is to require the developer and the tenant to sign an agreement acknowledging that there is no onsite parking and that vehicles are not allowed. If a tenant has a vehicle make it a requirement that they pay for offsite parking.

Julia K - February 3, 2014 Reply

I live in one of Seattle’s most apodment-rich neighborhoods: Capitol Hill. While these units would be a great deal and a good alternative to shared housing and traditional studios if they were priced in the $500 to $750 range, this is DEFINITELY not the case. They are often advertised as $750 or $850, but I’ve never actually seen one for rent less for less than $800, and most are around $1000 … or more.

I recently saw a unit with a loft like the one in the first picture on 10th and Alder (a neighborhood that’s not as desirable as Capitol Hill) advertised on Craigslist for $1200.

There are plenty of studios — with kitchens that would allow someone to actually cook instead of just reheat prepared meals — in the $1000 to $1200 range. This seems like a much better option for most renters.

If you check Craigslist rentals for Capitol Hill, you’ll find many, many ads for apodments. Unsurprisingly, they seem to move much slower than studios.

Timaree - February 3, 2014 Reply

They can do like Japan and make parking under the apartments. We paid for a spot to park in besides our rent so those who don’t own cars have cheaper rent that way but there is parking for those who need it also.

Karen - February 3, 2014 Reply

While I love the idea of smaller footprints and other environmentally friendly and less consumer-oriented approaches to life exemplified by tiny spaces and am also suspicious of profit motives that don’t mesh with citizens concerns, one nagging fear I’ve had all along is that we will find a way to justify slums, low-quality, poorly maintained,but ever-increased housing costs filled by people like students and minimum wage workers who don’t have enough political clout to safe-guard themselves. Also of concern is an economic system that pays such low wages that someone is forced to live in close quarters. Its one thing if its a choice, quite another when it isn’t. Access to decent work, transportation, green space, needed services, adequate food markets, health and education centers need to be planned when density is increased and personal living space reduced.

Eric - February 3, 2014 Reply

I would rent one of these if they came to Orange County, CA. A Studio here starts around $900/mo and thats for something built in the ’60s or ’70s etc and never updated. Something modern would easily run $1,200 or more for a studio.

Van - February 4, 2014 Reply

Oh the horrors of “unregulated” dwelling units…. Seriously, how many slum lords around the country fall into the regulated category. I’ll take one of these unregulated units any day.

Chas - February 4, 2014 Reply

As long as the buildings are safe then I say build them. Cities all over are grousing because they can’t collect as much tax money on these smaller spaces. Building tiny homes faces the same challenge. People living alone, just starting out and even seniors can get by with MUCH less space.

As for parking…these people mostly use public transport. The shops in the area likely appreciate the business. Many people who live in small spaces tend to be more tidy so less mess to clean if they move and better neighbors.

I’m looking at building a tiny home myself next year. In this day and age there is no sound reason for a single person to need a McMansion.

Apple - February 4, 2014 Reply

If the ‘issue’ with these micro apartments is that they may be in violation of city building codes – I would challenge them with the fact that these are similar to efficiency or studio apartments. It’s a smart plan. Also the fact people are wanting to live near public transportation probably means parking won’t be an issue.

Web Round-up | Pack Light - February 4, 2014 Reply

[…] Seattle aPodmonts (Nellemann, Tiny House Blog) […]

Vicki King - February 7, 2014 Reply

The officials are claiming they are concerned about parking AND lack of public transport for a larger populace in the same breath, more or less. The size of a unit, house or apt., NEEDs to decrease in order to conserve our resources both in construction and utilities required to sustain the unit after the build. There needs to be a concern of leaving something for our children and grandchildren to build with and provide energy instead of how small.er units cannot earn as much in tax revenue as larger sprawling Mc-Mansion-ish apartments.Therefore they make it the Government Offices,from the President to the City Building Inspectors’, main #1 priority instant gratification in the form of spending our tax dollars as if it were their own personal slush fund instead of planning ahead for future generations projected needs by conserving our present resources.

Jules James - February 7, 2014 Reply

Folks:
These aPodments are simply predatory. Day-to-day food preparation has been outsourced. Dine-out/Order-in isn’t an “affordable” lifestyle. But first and foremost: eight units are being squeezed through the land use code as one “boarding house” and that is simply corrupt behavior. Count units properly an then we can discuss the pros and cons of washing the dinner dishes in the bathroom sink and consuming parking without creating parking. Basic honesty outranks “a good idea”.

Rebecca - February 8, 2014 Reply

This mostly seems like an ant hill to me and a way for the user rich to confine us into smaller and smaller compartments, like the 3x7s in Asia. I “lived” in Seattle and felt the rich wanted to downsize the poor. I moved to the hinterlands where even min wage workers live better. Bought 5acres of forest and building a small cabin. Run from the lemmings going over the cliff.

Alex Ellsworth - July 31, 2014 Reply

Increased density! Heavens, stop this right away!

I live in Seoul, South Korea. I have been living happily in an aPodment-style dwelling for over 8 years. With my budget, I could afford an old and crummy multi-room apartment, or a really nice, shiny, modern tiny apartment. It was a no-brainer. Perfecly comfortable.

As far as density and infra, gimme a break. There is no area in Seoul that is not more crowded than virtually any area in America. Times Square perhaps comes close. Oh no, people! You know what? You deal with it! And what’s more, it makes neighborhoods more vibrant and supports the local merchants/economy. Not to mention the fact that folks who have more affordable housing will have more disposable income to spend. Everybody wins.

Laura - March 20, 2017 Reply

These are not like owning a cute little Tiny House. These are literally gray, as well as sterile and like jail cells which are still priced way too high. I am in a transitional situation now and had to put my stuff in storage. The cheapest one is 795, but only if you sign a 1 year or 6 month lease. If not, then you have to pay $100 to $200 dollars more per month. That means that I have to spend at least $900 for a tiny depressing room plus pay over $200 for storage until I can purchase a tiny condo. I have a dog and luckily they take dogs but then it is another $25 p/m and $500 deposit on top of the first, last and/or security deposit and cleaning fee and administrative fee (most are at least $150) I won’t have much of a down payment left if any by the time I get out of there, if I can get out of there.

Developers are completely taking advantage of renters.

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