Bigger isn’t better: Why the next wave of condos will be under 500 square feet

Could you fit your life into 300 square feet? Developers are betting on it, positioning tiny living spaces as a new status symbol for urban millennials.

Chic, central and closet-sized, micro-condos — loosely defined as units under 500 square feet — are being marketed as luxury rentals or a stylish first step onto the property ladder. While small units are already the norm in high-density Asian megacities and old European neighborhoods, major U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco are leading a new charge in North America with others quickly following suit.

“What these great world cities have in common is a scarcity of the resource called land and a large number of people who want to work and play in these cities,” says Mark Vlessing, co-founder of London developer Pocket Living.

According to a report from Neilson, an American consumer research company, 40% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 36 want to live in urban areas instead of the suburbs their parents idealized, but 69% feel they don’t earn enough to afford the lifestyle they covet. High rent, rising property prices, and growing demand make finding an affordable home harder than ever.

Local governments have taken notice. New York City, for one, has waved its minimum 400-square-foot housing requirement for a pilot project with units between 250 and 370 square feet. Last year, Pocket Living — which makes 400-square-foot units for those who earn less than around $100,000 a year — received roughly $36 million from the mayor of London to build approximately 400 units for first-time home buyers. Small units are seen as an affordable way to make cities accessible to more people.

CNN | Allyssia Alleyne