NMS Properties, Inc.
Neil Shekhter - on Micro-Unit Apartments, a Solution to Housing Shortage

If you are finding it difficult to find an affordable, small apartment to rent then the micro-unit might be your solution. Your unit can be as small as 140 square feet or as large as 400 square feet. They are also unique because they offer a choice of living arrangements. You can select from a shared-living arrangement or a self-contained unit. You will never need to go out to a laundromat as you can also select a unit with a washer and dryer.

Our country is faced with a shortage of a million housing units. Micro-units are slowly filling the need for housing in Los Angeles, Seattle and other areas needing additional units. Seattle had an increase of 550 micro-units in a span of four years. These houses are much less expensive to rent. For example, the average rent price in Seattle is $2,620. Yet, by renting a micro-unit, in one of the most desirable neighborhoods, it can be as little as $800 to $1,300. It is just a matter of time before Los Angeles takes advantage of these units in the urban areas, like in downtown.

Per Neil Shekhter, many people in the Los Angeles area would gladly support micro-units. There are few places available, under 400 square feet, in the big city. Many people, as has been witnessed around the world, will gladly exchange a smaller living space for a lower rent, as well as a more central location and the chance to live on their own. These people need to be given the option to do so.

Today, many people living in two and three-bedroom homes are no longer families. Instead, people are joining together becoming roommates, instead of families. They are choosing to live with others to save money and live in a nicer community. A recent Urban Land Institute survey discovered that ''ability to live alone'' was one of the highest priorities of micro-unit tenants, following price and location. Living in a micro-unit allows for all of these. It is obvious that we need micro-unit housing for singles, young people, as well as for retirees. This also helps to remove some of the pressure off larger units, Neil Shekhter points out.

In large cities, such as Los Angeles, it is common to find surface parking lots ranging from 6,000 to 8,000 square feet. These lots would be perfect for development of micro-units. As it is now, these lots have been devalued because they are too small to accommodate multiple levels of garage parking. This is a prerequisite for most development in Los Angeles today. These parking lots offer a fantastic opportunity, today, to build affordable micro-units, according to Neil Shekhter, founder and CEO of Santa Monica-based NMS Properties.

One of the most difficult obstacles facing the building of micro-units involves density limits and parking requirements. The density issue results in larger units being built. Parking requires too much area for the space, often 350 square feet for a 300 square feet apartment. These restrictions were eliminated in 2007 while other requirements were revised, Neil Shekhter notes.

While micro-units are not for everyone they are the perfect solution for demanding jobs where the tenant simply needs a place to sleep, shower and store their belongings. The future is wide-open to new housing typologies, materials to build a home and construction techniques to meet an affordable housing market. There is no doubt that micro-units will play a major role in meeting the future housing demand.