$1,700 a month to live in a closet

Scott Van Voorhis reports the city's push for "micro" apartment as lure for youngpreneurs to move into the Innovation District is working - except for the part about them being more affordable, such as the $1,700 a month or so to live in a 300-square-foot apartment on Melcher Street:

That's a lot to pay given you can get a townhouse in Quincy for that price and still be within a 10 or 15 minute Red Line commute from downtown Boston.



    Free tagging: 


    Removing transportation raises rents

    With the removal of roadway travel lanes and parking spots (preferred option for the majority), Mayors of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville etc. are doing their best to put more money into the pockets of such condo and apartment developers. When people can't live somewhere cheaper and drive to work, they are forced to pay for overpriced housing close to work. In cities with less traffic congestion and overpriced parking via artificial shortages and excess taxes, a market for overpriced housing can not be sustained.

    Public transit could substitute for driving, except in congested roadway conditions, housing near subway stations also gets inflated and unaffordable.


    what the Yuppies pay to live on one floor of what used to be a single family house in Southie. Put up some blueboard, call it a luxury condo and advertise it as "steps to the Beer Garden".

    Expensive Micro Units

    Two years ago I rented a 900 sq. ft. two bedroom apartment in South Boston for $2,000 per month, parking space included, less than a 15 minute walk from the Seaport "Innovation District." $1,700 for a micro unit is absurd.

    Keeping twenty-somethings in the city

    Isn't really a problem, is it? Let me know where in the city one should live if you're 30, married, and wondering where in your closet-house the baby can sleep.

    Also, unless they're putting some restriction on age, I bet these all get picked up by single, rich, elderly people and companies wanting to house consultants.


    Since we both work in the area, my husband and I are entertaining fantasies of renting a studio apartment in town and having a larger house further away when the kids fly the coop.

    But $1700 a month? That's a mortgage payment.

    I think that my husband's company very well might rent a couple of those given the location and that the hotel bills are climbing for their visiting staff from NYC, SF, London, and Brazil. Way cheaper than hotel rooms if you have longer stays.

    Of course

    why don't we encourage a little, just a little [I know real estate people and long time property owners want to make $ hand over fist], more construction to make more affordable housing available? It's ultimately self defeating in many ways for the city to be too expensive for most people to live in.

    Zoning, NIMBYism, and the

    Zoning, NIMBYism, and the long process to get a building permit make it very difficult and expensive to build anything in Boston. So whatever does get built has to be expensive for the developer to make a profit. If the city made it easier for more housing to be built, supply would meet demand and bring prices down. The reason why everything is being built "luxury" to recoup development costs even though there is a huge demand for lower cost housing and a surplus of luxury.


    Anon is right, only 30 units??

    Anon above has it right. Supply is artificially restricted so prices are high. Read through Adam's link, there are only 30 units in the building and not even all of them are "closets" - that's just not enough new units to drive the price down. BU houses thousands of students in a few large towers, probably in not much less space each than Bloomberg style micro-apartments. Maybe if the city built a few thousand units in the ID, things would change.


    Dumping a huge number of new residents into a political district freaks out the good ole boy power structure.

    Build 30 units - not a problem.

    Bring 1,000, multiple-occupant units online - they might not vote for the "right" people or know how things are done.

    Open 3,000 dorm rooms - nobody cares. They're all registered to vote somewhere else and because of the constrained housing supply, they won't be able to afford to stay more than four year (six, if they do grad school). Then we can pat ourselves on the back because we always knew they were "transients" who would be "gone in four years".

    Screw anybody who wants to stay.

    Too busy to vote

    These people will be too busy working to pay the rent and prices at local shops and eateries to vote!

    Now, build a granny ghetto with lots of assisted living units for people of an age where politics is a competitive sport they enjoy, then you start making old pols concerned! These people of experience also tend to be less idealistic, starry eyed and Democratic. Other than support hose, they are not wearing Spandex to go tearing up the streets on a fixie or TT bike.

    Section 8 is the number one

    Section 8 is the number one factor driving up housing in Massachusetts, not demand. You can't pull prices up from the top without also supporting them at the bottom. Section 8 accomplishes that by removing the need for landlords to compete on rents. Thanks to Mass having the lowest rate of home ownership and the highest rate of subsidies in the country, the bottom never falls. There was never a shortage of apartments here, not in the nineties and not now, just landlords willing to hold out knowing they can get their asking price from the first voucher holder that comes along.

    What Would Be Cool

    Is if there was any actual evidence that Section 8 was the leading cost of expensive housing in Boston. Only study I've scene recently was Glaeser finding it was land use regulation. Not sure how that's an ad hominem.

    Citation needed...

    ... because there just isn't that much Section 8 housing. And not that many people who qualify for it.

    Please show your work, or log in so we can track whether you know whereof you write.

    The demonstrable problem in Boston is Demand > Supply. Students, young (as in just-out-of-college) workers and working class folk are all competing for the same studio, 1 and 2 bedroom units along the T. None of them qualify for subsidized housing.

    In most of the inner 'burbs, there are means-tested apartment complexes (see Clarendon Hill Apartments in Somerville), and age/disability tested complexes (see Weston Manor in Somerville, or Coolidge School in Watertown). Some towns have honest-to-goodness projects (see Roosevelt Towers or Newtowne Court in Cambridge). While the craptastic economy has increased demand for low-income and subsidized housing, that's not driving any prices up, nor is is cushioning the landlords from holding an empty apartment.

    These units in the Innovation District seem ideal for companies to have for their longer-term visitors, but honestly, wouldn't those employees be happier in a Guest Quarters?

    Different nests for different birds

    I recall a buddy who was living in San Francisco but working for a Pittsburgh bank. He'd just bought the million-dollar condo of his dreams, in the super-trendy SOMA neighborhood, a brand new industrial loft, extremely high-end, around the corner from his favorite leather bar, walking distance to a dozen excellent restaurants, etc.

    His boss was visiting from Pittsburgh and wanted to see this new home he was so excited over. She walked through, took it all in, the courtyard with artful bamboo plantings, the amazing lighting systems, the to-die-for everything, then turned to him and announced "In Pittsburgh you could have gotten a house with pillars!"

    "Yes, but it'd be in P i t t s b u r g h .", he replied, his voice dripping with disdain.

    Yeah, for the same money one can get a tiny pace in a trendy part of Boston, a townhouse in Quincy, or a mansion in parts of Brockton. Heck for the money you can get a block in Detroit. But those are also folks living rather different lives.

    Are there people willing to spend $1,700/mo for sleek, tiny, and well-located (for their interests)? Absolutely. Put in a sliding wall, colored LED lighting, & Japanese-style gadget-toilet and get $2,000/mo, easy.

    New construction, eminently show-off-able, no room-mate, larger then the dorm rooms they may have recently moved out of, easy access to restaurants, nightlife, work nearby/walk to downtown/T to the schools, hospitals, Kendall Square, etc., fast train to NYC & the airport 10 minutes away. There are legions of Boston-area folks who'd love this, certainly enough to make these a success. Sign me up as an investor.

    Yes, but....

    You could get a roommate and spend 1800-2000 for a 2 bedroom a couple blocks away at park lane seaport and have a ton more space. As someone said, for like $800-1k, I bet those micro units would go like hotcakes, at $1700, you can find places (either with a roommate or smaller/older) for that price in the North End/South End.

    I think

    they're wildly overestimating the popularity of the Seaport.

    Why would you pay $1700 for a microstudio in a neighborhood that really doesn't have much going for it, when you could get a 1-bed in the Fenway or a 2-bed in Allston, and be walkable to a wide array of different restaurants and shops?


    The Seaport is far from "complete," but it's hardly the endless blocks of parking lots and abandoned warehouse buildings from back in the day, especially if you include Fort Point (which is where Melcher Street is). I've used (abused?) the SimCity metaphor before, but it's really interesting watching that whole space develop.

    Lacks Amenities

    If you are putting out $1700 for a tiny studio to get walk-to-work convenience, you probably aren't going to be up for the costs of having a car in the city, too. However, the area is still severely lacking in the sort of basic amenities that make a neighborhood work.

    That's what I find ridiculous about that sort of rent on Melcher St. While there are eateries and little shops springing up all around, there isn't a grocery store (save c-mart) within a couple of miles of there. The nearest retail pharmacy is half a mile away. It would take a half hour each way on the T to get to Whole Foods - at least 15-20 minutes by bike with some seriously congested and poorly planned roads inbetween.

    If, as I have heard it said by local planning types, they want the Seaport District to be like Portland's Pearl District, they have to start thinking about what a neighborhood needs and what amenities are required. Grocery stores were planned into the Pearl from the start to make it possible for people to not own cars. Boston just seems to think they will magically appear in the Seaport area or, worse yet, there hasn't been any thinking at all beyond hotel and conference needs. That doesn't work.

    The roads between Fort Point

    The roads between Fort Point and the Whole Foods in the West End are perfectly well planned. They just predate the existence of the Fort Point neighborhood by as much as around 250 years. Surely we can't fault our original settlers for that.

    I'd agree that the seaport is a joke though, and frankly, I'd rather see it used for industrial purposes. It's a pain in the ass to clear out places where people live, and we may need areas like this more in the future.

    Small & urban = little driving, even less hauling

    I lived in the South End for years when there wasn't a decent grocery store 'nearby'. For basics I'd backpack it and for larger resupplies I'd borrow a car, go with a friend who had a car, occasionally take a taxi back (again, shared was best), tack the grocery run onto the end of a weekend car rental, or these days I s'pose a Zipcar would be a good choice.

    (I gotta admit I felt a bit lonely when I moved out of downtowns & started driving myself, often alone, to the grocery store. Also I suspect my cooking suffered without creative input in the shopping.)

    Speaking of which, most new construction I'm seeing has Zipcar-type services included as a default. They're an easy way for the builder to short the parking spaces: "You can rent a spot from The Association for only $200 a month, but there's are plenty of Zipcar spots!". I'm actually pretty good with this, assuming self-driving (self parking!) cars actually are on the horizon.

    But however it happens, if someone can pay $1,700/mo to live alone they can pony up for the occasional grocery run. Besides, with such a small place they're never going to be bringing home large amounts of anything.

    (On vacation with friends I once watched the non-urbans get surprised by the urbanites "odd habits". The downtowners would buy something, immediately dispose of all packaging, then consolidate it with other purchases. Buying anything largish was predicated on it being shipped by the seller. Of course the city mice never went to a Wholesale Club because they'd no room, or energy to carry up the four flights of stairs, the bulk of bulk buying. Finally folks in 300'^2 places don't store much in the way of holiday decorations, old clothes, read books, or spare anything.)

    Yeah, But

    The birds in question here are, at least according to Mayor Menino's fantasy for the "Innovation District", young entrepreneurs priced out of the city. Why are they going to come back when the new nests cost exactly the same as the old nests but with the added perk of being less than half the size?

    I'd love to see

    A lighting system worth dying for. I've never seen one, must be amazing.


    Providence doing the same, for $550

    Article in The Atlantic: One of America's Oldest Shopping Malls Converts to Micro-Apartments

    Built in 1828 by architects James Bucklin and Russell Warren, the Greek Revival structure was the nation’s first enclosed shopping mall. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1976, but by 2010 had made the Providence Preservation Society’s 10 Most Endangered Buildings list.


    Working with J. Michael Abbott of Northeast Collaborative Architects, developer Evan Granoff sliced up the Arcade’s two upper floors into 48 apartments. Thirty-eight are micro—between 225 and 450 square feet—a scale that brings the new spaces closer in line with the mall’s 1828 design, according to Granoff.


    The tenants who move into the $550 apartment-lets this spring won’t need to bring much. The units come with built-in beds, full baths, and storage, so anyone fresh from dorm life or a recession-mandated stay with family could breeze in with nothing but a new mall wardrobe, a toothbrush, and some takeout from one of the ground-floor restaurants. With no stove to speak of, micro-dwellers will have to make due with, yes, their micro-waves.

    There's an old term for these places

    Residential Hotels.

    There are several fine examples in and around Harvard and MIT - Bexley and Ashdown at MIT were built as residences for single people who wanted to be near the university but didn't need a full size residence. Harvard has several as well, many are now sold as small studio and 1br condos. They featured meal service and maid service for young businessmen and those who needed a city space to cut down commuting and travel time from their estates.

    UPDATE: durn ya, you linker to AtlanticCities! I click on that link and next thing I know WHOOSH! Hours gone - HOURS!


    He's forgetting about the 10mins you're stopped just before the bridge over the neponset...and the crawl between JFK and Andrew. Aside from those "minor" delays, sure, it's 15mins!

    Sounds like...

    short-term corporate housing, anyone? $1700 is way cheaper than putting someone up in a hotel for a month. But as a primary residence it's ridiculous. There are comparable micro-apartments in Providence at the Arcade going for $500 a month.

    Correct me if I'm wrong...

    But isn't $1,700 essentially half of monthly take-home amount of a $60K salary? What kind of a fresh out of college 20-something would be able to afford that, especially once you factor in student loan payments?




    Most starting salaries in Boston are $30-40K in post college industries. And I believe they say you shouldn't spend more than 25% your salary on housing. 33% tops.

    This state is going to be in a world of hurt once boomers die off and investors flee.

    starting salary

    But starting salary for post-grads in legal and financial industries are more like 165k.

    Hope you're not in school anon, cause you're in for a rude awakening.

    thats still top 1-5% of a graduating class. A buddy that just graduated with a law degree and top 10% of his class only recently found work as an attorney after 18 months. And no, not making even close to that yet.

    Finance? Gonna have to move to NYC for that for those payouts this early (and most likely not for 5-10 years either)