Boston’s real estate market is not known for its affordability.
What’s In? is hoping to tackle at least part of this problem, for those willing to live small. The collaborative research initiative, which includes members of ADD Inc., Map-Lab, Artaic, and Onein3, along with the Boston Society of Architects in February unveiled a 300-square-foot micro-housing unit at BSA Space on Atlantic Wharf.
We spoke with Aeron Hodges, a designer at ADD Inc., about the unit.
“We heard from many, many people that it seemed bigger than 300-square-feet,’’ Hodges said. “People told us they would totally live in a space like this.’’
The unit was on display through March 8.
Hodges said the project was done in conjunction with the development of the Innovation District in Boston’s Seaport. In 2010, Mayor Thomas M. Menino asked architects in the city how innovative housing could look. This question landed with Tamara Roy, a senior associate principal at ADD Inc. , who met with her colleagues.
ADD Inc. and Onein3, a city organization aimed at serving Boston’s 20- to 34-year-olds, asked 40 people what they would want in such housing.
“Is it amenities, is it affordability, is it lots of public spaces?’’ Hodges said. “The topic of affordability became the most prominent discussion.’’
Building small is one way to make things affordable.
Hodges and Quinton Kerns, also of ADD Inc., worked closely on the micro-housing unit, which was first presented at the ArchitectureBoston Expo in November 2012. The studio-style unit includes a bathroom, four-foot-wide kitchen, and an alcove for sleeping and entertaining.
The micro-housing unit was well-received at the ArchitectureBoston Expo, Hodges said. This led to an opportunity from Boston Properties to create the current display.
In addition to its living space, the model comes with customizable built-in storage areas. (They are visible in the back of this photograph.) “The idea is to create a concept of storage areas, but indicate that these are potentially areas left for the renter to furnish,’’ Hodges said. All furnishings, in fact, could be left up to the inhabitant in order to keep their rent checks down. “They can go to Ikea, furnish it themselves,’’ Hodges said. “It adds personality to the space and lowers the rent. All of it came down to how can we lower the rent.’’
While the goal is to keep the unit affordable, its actual listing price will depend on the neighborhood where it is located. If it’s downtown, renters could pay up to $1,300 a month, Hodges said. If it’s somewhere outside of the city center but near a bus or MBTA line, rent could be slightly under $1,000.
Pictured: The unit’s entryway includes storage for a bike. The kitchen and bathroom are located to the front, while the bed alcove is at the end of the hall. Unlike in this picture, the back of the alcove would have large windows to let in natural light.
Exhibit organizers on Wednesday held a brainstorm session with developers in the city who are interested in making models like this a reality.
“We talked about the concept and everyone agreed this is going to be in high demand,’’ Hodges said. “Maybe it’s not just for young professionals. Maybe it’s for everybody. Divorcees, seniors who are moving back into the city.’’
“It would be an interesting conglomeration of all sort of people who want to live in a space like this,’’ she said.
One of the driving discussions from the sessions addressed what needs to happen in terms of policy and government incentives, said Hodges.
Hodges said this type of living is absolutely possible in Boston.
“I think there’s definitely a demand for it, the question is how to make it affordable,’’ she said. “Small units already exist on the Seaport, in the Innovation Area. I think 400-, 500-square-foot unites cost over $2,000 a month to rent. There’s nothing for any of us fresh out of college or grad school. There’s no way we can afford it.’’