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A deluxe efficiency in the sky

The hot trend in real estate is small apartments.

Admit it, you're singing the theme song

Apartments in Houston are shrinking.

As rents have gone up, developers have been building smaller units and a lot more of them to meet growing demand from apartment dwellers who want to live in cool new complexes but can’t afford larger units.

In many new properties, the average unit size has come down by 100 square feet or more and the percentage of one-bedrooms is growing.

“The numbers of larger one-bedrooms or larger two-bedrooms are kind of disappearing,” said multifamily designer Jim Wallace of Wallace Garcia Wilson Architects.

While small apartments can be found in the suburbs, the downsizing is mostly a close-in phenomenon.

One-bedroom apartments will make up as many as 80 percent of the units in some of the new complexes being built near the city’s center. Across the Houston area, efficiencies and one-bedrooms make up 53 percent of all units, according to Apartment Data Services.

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Cost isn’t the only thing driving the shift.

Societal changes and technological advances are now making it easier to live in small quarters.

Space and furniture once needed to house bulky appliances and electronics are no longer necessary. Renters are getting rid of their big televisions and armoires that housed them in favor of flat-panel TVs that can be mounted on a wall. They’re replacing stereo systems and desktop computers with iPods and laptops.

Couple things here. First, there’s a nationwide trend towards renting and away from owning. It’s too early to say if this is a temporary response to the economic downturn and housing crisis or if it will last for the long term, but it’s significant regardless. Looking at it from a strictly Houston perspective, if this lasts it has the potential to change some of the growth patterns around here. One reason why the outer areas have grown so fast is because they have a lot of open space on which to build shiny new big houses, with big yards, for people to buy. But if that’s not what people want, then the inner core may benefit, as this sort of small apartment construction is well suited for established areas, with a bonus for walkability and proximity to various attractions. If the answer to the high price of inner Loop living is to make more of it available, this is just the ticket. Check back in five years and see where we stand.

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One Comment

  1. RBearSAT says:

    What we’ve noticed in San Antonio is the demand for Center City living is with young professionals with no kids yet or empty nesters who prefer the amenities of downtown living. When the young couple is ready to have kids, they look to the suburbs. When the older couple has shoved their last kids out the door, they look to the Center City. Now if we can only match those two demographics up together we create a more sustainable city.

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