Living Small: Microhousing Come To Downtown Denver

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Turntable Studios micro apartment
A micro apartment at Turntable Studios in Denver. Each studio unit is 330 square feet.

With the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Denver nearly $1,300 a month, micro apartments might just make a dent in the market -- at least for some. One redevelopment, Turntable Studios at the old Hotel VQ next to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, opens in July. Most of the building’s 179 units are 330-square-foot studios. Starting prices are $885 a month.

Microhousing may be new to Denver, but it’s already catching on in Europe and in some U.S. cities, namely Seattle, where, according to some estimates, there are nearly 10,000 micro apartments.

Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner spoke with Melissa Rummel, project manager with Nichols Partnership, and Mark Hinshaw, Seattle architect and urban planner.

Click the audio player above to hear the full conversation, and read highlights below.

On what makes microhousing affordable:

"It has opened up more choices for more people to have reasonably priced housing. It hasn't made it dramatically more affordable, but I suppose that varies with opinion. It's still, on a square-foot basis, relatively expensive housing, although it's being delivered on the market for anywhere from $500 to $800 a month, and that's very good deal."

On the history of urban microhousing:

"It is a throwback to a much earlier era in the history of the country when we did have very small units available to people in cities that did allow them to be independent and to have a secure place, and we've forgotten about that era. We had it for many decades and lots of cities took it out of their zoning codes and so it really wasn't allowed for a long time."

On why neighborhoods might object to such small units:

"[Microhousing] really won't pencil out for anybody if you are going to require one space per unit. It just wouldn't happen. So all of the places that are allowing this are either reducing the parking requirement if not eliminating them all together. So that raises the specter for neighborhood protectionists to say, 'Hey, our neighborhood is going to be flooded by people who don't drive cars anyway...' That's the claim. However, the claim isn't necessarily supported by the facts. Millennials [most researchers show], when they live in urban areas, they probably don't have a car and they might not even have a driver's license."