Alternative housing typologies play a critical role in the delivery of accessible and affordable housing for all. I have previously explored the topic of the viability of micro-apartment dwellings as an affordable housing option within Perth in my urban planning dissertation which can be read in full here.

A micro-apartment dwelling is generally an apartment between 10-30sq.m, inclusive of kitchen and bathroom amenities. In summary, there are a number of policy and cultural perceptions that are required to change in order to effectively deliver this housing typology into the Perth housing market. Some of these key elements required to change (but not limited to) are outlined below:

  • Improved flexibility of the R-Codes (generally limited to 40sq.m)
  • Increased local amenity and activity
  • Improved public transport infrastructure and walkability
  • Financial investment
  • Construction costs
  • Market perception (risk)

I found that micro-apartment dwellings are transient dwelling choices and cater towards young people entering the housing market and older people looking for minimalistic lifestyles. However, there is a large amount of risk associated with this dwelling type due to the perceptions of the housing market and the notion of the ‘Australian Dream’ which has prospered within Perth’s urban sprawl for decades.

Recently, there has been further debate nationally on limiting floorspace for apartments in order to deliver liveable spaces and not ‘vertical slums’. At the end of the day, the design of these small spaces is intrinsic to their success and the innovative developments pushing the boundaries of design, affordability and liveability are the real saviours for Perth’s shifting housing market and this is seen across the globe.

The times, they are a-changin’

355 East 27th Street, Kips Bay – New York

As part of my dissertation, I explored the proposed development of a number of modular constructed micro-apartments dwellings between 23-34sq.m in New York. This development was commissioned by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development under the adAPT NYC program and sees 40 percent of these apartments categorised as affordable housing available to low and moderate income New York residents.

On a recent trip to the USA, I was lucky enough to attend a site visit to the construction site and see these apartments being locked together under their modular design. The project manager outlined that it had taken three weeks to construct the apartments up to this stage, with the project slated for completion 30 June, 2015. The development was required to extend past the legislature of its conception which permitted unit sizes of no less than 37sq.m and showcases that dynamic, affordable housing can be delivered whilst maintaining a level of liveability.

The continuing housing pressures associated with New York City have contributed towards these alternative housing solutions. As the population of Perth increases and we are met with further housing demand, Perth needs to heed the lessons of other cities in its response. It is clear that Perth has a long road ahead in terms of delivering higher density housing, urban consolidation and infill.

As we grow as a globally recognised city, we need to look forward to innovative design capabilities for housing and not a one size fits all approach. Housing is dynamic just like people and the current housing stock within Perth does not necessarily reflect this. Evidentially, change is on the horizon, even if it is in a micro-way.