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Living in tight spaces might address SoCal's housing crunch

The BASE Capitol Hill apartment building in Seattle, which has the country's largest concentration of microunits.
The BASE Capitol Hill apartment building in Seattle, which has the country's largest concentration of microunits.
Urban Land Institute via Flickr

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The cost to live in L.A. has been rising, and people are trying to find solutions.

One of them could be on residents to live more like "Aladdin's" Genie in an...


Solving the housing crisis might take cramming all of L.A.'s greatness into smaller homes like micro-units, which can be less than 400 square feet.

"It would certainly help," said architect Alice Kimm. "You can imagine that if you had many, many, many more of those on the market for rent, many more people can afford to live in the city."

The price of land in Los Angeles can get very high, and cramming more units onto a single plot can lower the cost for every individual unit.

"But how can you adequately provide a unit that can house somebody comfortably in that amount of space? That's a real design challenge," said Kimm.

There are ways, however.

Inside a unit, there could be modular walls that can pulled in or pushed out of the way. They may hide a Murphy bed or even a full kitchen set-up.

"It's all about flexibility and modularity," she said.

High ceilings and large windows can also create the illusion of spaciousness, not to mention the technology on the horizon that might also do that, too.

"In the future, alternate reality and virtual reality – the Google Glasses and all of those things – are commonplace," she said. "The outer wall of your unit, you can touch it and be in the outer wilds somewhere in Africa."

It's an idea you might remember from "Back to the Future II."

The common areas of a building become really important, too, so residents can still enjoy large, open spaces.

"There's the idea of pulling out the kitchen and creating communal kitchens," said Kimm, "and starting to remove things that can be shared by more than one family. That way you can downsize the multi-family unit."

Courtyards and pools can also be vital amenities that allow people to get away from their micro-unit.

"It also puts a lot of pressure on the cities to really begin to look at their public spaces and infrastructure a little more carefully," she added.

That means if more buildings with micro-units go up, parks and public spaces need to be built near them, too.

"You know, the idea of the stoop magnified many times," said Kimm.

All this may seems foreign or repelling to people who moved to LA. to live like Angelenos, not New Yorkers.

"The traditional Angeleno does expect space or does think about their city in that way," she says, "but I don't know if that's so true of the up-and-coming generations. Millennials and people moving to the city now have a different conception of the city – one that is more urban and more walkable and more vertical." 

What amenities would you want in your dream home if it had to be small? Tell us in the comments.