Starting from the 1950s, a massive house in the suburbs with a green yard and white picket fence has been the ultimate symbol of social class mobility, aspiration, and high life quality. While this picture is most commonly known as the “American Dream”, for decades, it resonated well globally.
Seven decades later, following the ongoing environmental challenges, cycles of economic crises, and substantial demographic change means, millions of people have reduced their appetites for big homes. In fact, a third of homeowners are contemplating selling their homes to downsize.
Taking a more serious and structured approach to downsizing, “micro-living” is now a dominant design and real estate trend. Officially, this term refers to homes that are up to 35 square meters in size. Nevertheless, it’s not just about the size: A micro-home typically comes with certain intelligent features and furnishing and is located in an urban center.
According to the British Property Federation, there are three types of micro-living: Compact living in self-contained smaller homes; co-living in purpose-built and managed developments; and shared living in converted or sub-divided houses.
What Are the Benefits of Micro-Living?
Thanks to the innovations in architecture and design, life in small spaces no longer have to mean a cramped and cluttered existence. Micro-living can add value to our cities and lives in the following meaningful ways.
1. Affordable Living
Our world is currently going through an affordable housing crisis. In most countries, the cost of housing has boomed faster than people’s income levels, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). By 2025, the number of people affected by this housing crisis could climb to an alarming 1.6 billion.
Micro-living requires fewer resources to build, run, furnish, and maintain. Less space means fewer possessions, less maintenance, and considerably reduced expenses. Therefore, micro-living units could be a crucial part of the solution to the world’s affordable housing crisis and help millions to have access to functional and comfortable homes.
2. Kinder to Our Planet
Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. According to United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) research, reducing a home’s per-capita floor size by just 20 percent could reduce the emissions from building that home by up to a whopping 60 percent.
Furthermore, suburban living creates an acute car dependency, in addition to deforestation and the destruction of wild habitats.
Thus, micro-living has the potential to not only dramatically reduce environmental impact but also to preserve forests and wildlife from urban sprawl.
3. Re-igniting Local Economies
Increasing access to affordable housing stimulates economic activity and growth.
Micro-living by no means equals a lifestyle devoid of joy or socialization. Micro-apartment dwellers in dense urban centers can take advantage of all the professional, commercial, educational, and cultural opportunities a city offers.
When people don’t have to spend the most significant lump sum of their earnings on rent or mortgage, they enjoy a higher disposable income. This would allow them to spend more locally and encourage entrepreneurial behavior too.
4. Accommodating Cultural Changes
While there’s still an oversupply of large-family homes and luxury apartments, our societies have been undergoing a major demographic transition. The family units are getting smaller, and there’s an increasing number of single-person households. For instance, in Germany, by 2040, one in four people will be living alone, and many other advanced economies follow a similar pattern. Hence, micro-living can cater to the current demographic needs much more efficiently.
A major cultural shift also goes hand-in-hand with this demographic transformation: A rising number of people are able to work remotely, without the need to call a single place a permanent home. These so-called digital nomads have different needs than tourists or business travelers, making micro-living units the ideal mid-term accommodation.
5. Solutions for Homelessness
Housing is a fundamental human right. However, in parallel to the affordable housing crisis, homelessness has been growing at an alarming rate globally. About two percent of the world’s population is estimated to be homeless. However, with advancing design and construction technologies, micro-homes have the potential to alleviate the global homelessness issues.
In some cities where homelessness is a palpable problem, such as San Francisco or London, local governments and charities have already been experimenting with micro-living solutions and yielding good results.