Addressing the Housing Crisis through the establishment of ‘Micro Apartments’ and Other Affordable Housing Options

To combat the affordable housing crisis, the city of Sacramento has turned to ‘micro apartments,’ small apartments no more than 415 square feet, to address this need.

The apartments are meant for no more than two people and are no smaller than 150 feet based on city regulations. All ‘micro apartments’ are required to have a kitchen and a bathroom.

Supporters say these types of apartments can be a more affordable option for a variety of people, including young people, elderly residents on fixed incomes, and single parents.  

Mayor Darrel Steinberg of Sacramento emphasizes the importance of continuing to build smaller affordable housing types as a way to address the housing crisis.

“What I want to see in the state is the tiny home movement [and] manufactured housing move to scale in some form because I worry that we’re not going to catch our tail in terms of trying to keep up with the demand for conventional affordable housing,” Steinberg said. (Capital Public Radio)

In order to qualify, tenants need to earn “between 40% to 60% of the area median income.”

Currently, Sacramento has three ‘micro apartment’ communities with various square footage. The Sonrisa – 58 units, 267 square feet

19J Midtown- 11 stories, 415 square feet

West Sacramentos Kind – 360 square feet

 Executive Director of the Capital Area Development Authority, Danielle Foster, said there is a waitlist of over “860 households” for the Sonrisa apartments. (Capital Public Radio)

The added benefit of ‘micro apartments,’ like traditional apartments, do not have a time limit, whereas many other forms of temporary housing do have time limits before residents are expected to find permanent housing.

Another form of housing for those experiencing homelessness include tiny homes, which provide more security and privacy compared to shelters. 

Tiny homes also tend to provide more services, such as “one on one” case managers to support residents in their transition to permanent housing.

However, the data shows that the transition rate to permanent housing is relatively low, with only 43% transitioning to permanent housing in Santa Clara County and 27% in Alameda County between June 2019- June 2020.  (Center for Health Journalism)

With ‘micro Apartments’ the residents do pay rent and they are permanent option for those experiencing homelessness, unlike tiny homes, which tend to be temporary.

Though tiny homes do not have to be a temporary option, they can be used permanently, such as an organization called Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon.

The village in Sunderland Yard began after many members decided to relocate there due to orders to vacate an area around the Fremont Bridge. The state of Oregon in 2004 officially recognized the location as a tiny home village after three years under temporary status.

Today it is a permanent site and community center for many who were once unhoused.

The demand is quite high for this type of affordable housing. Hopefully, ‘micro apartments’ and other affordable housing models will later expand to other cities across California to address the ongoing housing crisis.


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