In France and other European countries, living in a flat is very different than living in an American apartment. Not only does the relative size of a European flat differ from that of an American apartment, but it also reveals a juxtaposition in how we live and what “home” means to us.

The average size of a Parisian studio flat can be anywhere from 300-500 square feet. Apartments in Hong Kong and Tokyo are smaller yet, ranging from approximately 100-300 square feet. Across the ocean, American apartments are among the biggest in square footage around the world, followed by Australia as a close second.

The size of the homes we live in demonstrates a lot about our lifestyles. It shows how we choose to spend our time, what appeals to us, and what types of accommodations are available to us in our location.

Smaller sized dwellings have made their way onto the American real estate scene in the area of property downsizing. Namely, tiny homes have made their debut, along with micro-sized units, to accommodate an increasing number of singles, seniors, and even students. These smaller home options have gained popularity for many reasons, including housing shortages, costly rent prices, overcrowding, and demand for single living suites.

In this post, we’ll discuss micro-apartments and tiny homes, the reasons for their increasing popularity, as well as the benefits and downsides of each micro-space.

What is a Micro-Unit?

A micro-unit (or micro-apartment) is a type of low cost housing that is self-contained, and usually includes a kitchen/bath area, a sleeping space, and a sitting space. The size can be anywhere from 200-500 square feet, depending on the city. Some have a communal washrooms or kitchen areas that are shared with other dwellers on the same floor. Cities that have dense populations, such as Seattle or New York, have developed micro-unit buildings to test the feasibility of small units in lowering housing costs for singles and fulfilling a ready-made market.

Benefits of a Micro-Unit

  • Meets demand for single, affordable housing in large, densely populated cities
  • Encourages an active lifestyle outside of apartment, such as walking or other exercise
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Buildings may come equipped with cafes, gyms, laundry, storage spaces, and other shared socializing areas
  • Ability to afford to live alone
  • Promotes minimalistic living
  • Efficient use of space
  • Investment potential for developers due to high occupancy rates

Downfalls of a Micro-Unit

  • Small space
  • Parking space is limited
  • Could increase density of neighborhoods
  • Zoning requirements on apartment sizes
  • Health and well-being may be affected (due to small living space)
  • Noise

What is a Tiny Home?

Another notable small housing trend is the emergence of tiny homes, also known as small houses. It is recognized as the Tiny House Movement. These homes are approximately 100-400 square feet and are built to be modular, usually on wheels. The space includes a bed, small kitchen, and bathroom.

Compared to the average American home of about 2,400 square feet, tiny homes are considerably more condensed. The movement sprang from the 2008 financial crisis because the tiny dwelling was a more affordable choice. Popularity for the smaller abode has risen in recent years. People choose to downsize into a tiny home for reasons such as reducing material wealth, living a minimalistic lifestyle, saving money, and a creating a smaller environmental footprint.

Benefits of a Tiny Home

  • Affordable to build or buy
  • Greater ability to save; freedom from mortgage and less in utility expenses. Also, the homeowner can save on maintenance, taxes, groceries, and repairs.
  • Potentially less debt
  • Eco-friendly
  • Promotes a a minimalistic lifestyle, free from clutter. Maximizes use of space.
  • Mobility
  • Promotes activity outdoors, which can boost mood and increase well-being
  • Less time spent cleaning and less waste is produced

Downfalls of a Tiny Home

  • Small space
  • Limited room for occupants, guests, or pets
  • Less privacy
  • Takes time to build
  • Land; there are limited options for where to keep the tiny home and zoning restrictions may prohibit parking the home in an RV park.
  • The resale value is low (no equity)
  • If you don’t have the cash, you may have to get a loan or borrow from a loved one to build or buy the tiny home.
  • Weather conditions, such as snow, rain, or tornadoes pose a threat a tiny home’s foundation.
  • Safety; a tiny home may not have the security of a larger home.
  • Comfort; the home itself may be cramped, which could be an adjustment for many.
  • Not ideal for those who work from home.

Is Smaller Better?

While living in a smaller space can be a good alternative to a costly home, a tiny space is not for everybody.

Before making a decision to move into a micro-space, evaluate whether you will be able to adapt to a much smaller home, by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I stay at home often, or am I frequently out or at work?
  • How many possessions do I own? Could I downsize them if I needed to?
  • Does a minimalist, low waste, and eco-friendly lifestyle appeal to me?
  • Do I have a family or pets?
  • How much space do I need at a minimum?
  • Am I organized?
  • Would a smaller space afford me with convenience, such as a shorter commute or savings?

The Future of Micro-Housing

As the population density increases in cities, hovering around 80% in the US, there is a growing need for housing solutions. Are micro-units or tiny homes the answer?

While the concept of affordable, eco-friendly housing has clear benefits, including the lifestyle of sharing, community, and simplicity, it also poses potential disadvantages as well, from zoning issues to crowding and noise.

With demand for inexpensive housing, and a population growing at a substantial rate, a shift in thinking is required to make more land available for tiny homeowners and develop more efficiently designed micro-dwellings, ones that can offer the right amenities within reach and find the right balance between practical and affordable, and comfortable and environmental—all without sacrificing the freedom (and privacy) of single living.

Would you ever consider living in a tiny home or micro-space?

Posted by Kristy DeSmit

Kristy is a blogger, Twitter enthusiast, and company legalese interpreter.


  1. I really liked what you said about there being more mobility with a tiny home. I have really been thinking about downsizing and I think that we would be able to make tiny living work. My husband often has to move around for his job, so it would make sense to get a place that can move with us.

  2. Hi Gerty, thanks for taking the time to comment. The mobility of tiny homes is certainly a benefit for those who travel for work.

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