Cities adjust building codes to allow micro apartments

October 03, 2012 |
Dwight Perkins

San Francisco, where a growing number of residents are being priced out of the housing market by a revived high tech economy, is the latest city to consider so-called “micro apartments.” City officials may adjust the building code to allow the smallest housing micro-units of any US city—150 sf of living space —220 sf when you add the bathroom, kitchen, and closet. San Francisco’s current code requires apartment units to be at least 290 sf.

One developer says that mini-apartments' schematics he is considering include window seats that convert to spare beds and beds that transform into tables. Bay windows would offer sweeping views. A city official says that smaller units will mean cheaper and more plentiful housing options, and estimates that the micro-units will probably go for $1,200 to $1,700 a month, compared with an average studio apartment rental price of $2,075. So in a metropolis where 41% of residents live solo, the units would fill a niche by allowing people to stay who might otherwise have to take on roommates or leave town, the city official says.

New York City and Boston have already launched pilot projects for micro units. New York’s experiment allows units as small as 275 sf. Opponents of this trend fear that a wave of "shoe box homes" would further marginalize families of modest means who are desperate for larger accommodations.


Dwight Perkins | Codes and Standards

Dwight Perkins is the Senior Director of Field Operations for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and orchestrates the code adoption efforts of 11 other IAPMO Field Service regions as well as directly working with the state code agencies in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Oregon. Mr. Perkins has more than 35 years experience in the plumbing industry starting as an Apprentice in Alaska moving through the ranks to become a Journeyman Plumber and Business Manager of with UA Local 262. Prior to joining IAPMO, Perkins served in the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly while worked as Deputy Commissioner for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. He is extremely familiar with the demands jurisdictions face on a daily basis and he is particularly well suited to address those needs. Mr. Perkins may be contacted at IAPMO at 503-982-1193 or email

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