Shrinking apartment trend hits Evanston

A rendering of 831 Emerson looking west from a point east of Sherman Avenue.

The average size of new apartments has been shrinking across the country, and that trend will accelerate in Evanston, assuming the City Council approves the 831 Emerson planned development Monday.

A Yardi Matrix study says that nationwide the average new apartment in a large development was 8 percent smaller last year than a decade ago. A RCLCO study says apartments built this decade are 7 percent smaller than ones built last decade.

Data from the City of Evanston indicates that average unit sizes have been shrinking here as well. The average size of an apartment in the three planned developments approved between 2011 and 2013 was 982 square feet. For the four developments approved between 2014 and 2016 the average size was 927 square feet -- a nearly 6 percent decrease.

(These averages for Evanston are calculated from the midpoint in the square footage range for each unit type -- studio through three bedroom. They don't account for variations in the mix of unit types among projects or the extent to which the midpoint of the range of sizes of a particular unit type may differ from the average if all units were accounted for individually.)

The 831 Emerson project will shrink average apartment sizes even more. The average of the average sizes for the four unit types there is 733 square feet -- nearly 21 percent smaller than the average for the four most recent developments approved in Evanston.

The shrinkage will be most dramatic for studio apartments -- which will average 390 square feet at 831 Emerson, compared to 571 square feet in the four developments approved between 2014 and 2016 -- a nearly 32 percent reduction.

That's even less that the average 466 square foot size of a studio apartment in the City of Chicago.

But it's larger than the 350 square foot average for micro-units, as defined by a study from the Urban Land Institute.

That study said micro units "outperform conventional units in the marketplace -- they achieve higher occupancy rates and garner significant rental-rate premiums" compared to conventional units.

The study cautions that the supply of such units is still quite small, and it's difficult to know whether there's significant pent-up demand for them.

But it also suggests that nearly a quarter of renters in conventional apartments indicate they would be intrested or very interested in renting a micro unit.

The typical target market for micro units is young single professionals. But they also are said to appeal to some couples and roommates, some older move-down singles and pied-a-terre users.

While smaller units yield higher rents per square foot for developers, they also provide less expensive per-unit rental costs for tenants.

At last Monday's Planning and Development Commitee meeting, Tim Anderson, head of Focus Development which has proposed the 831 Emerson project, said one bedroom units at 831 Emerson would have an average rent of $1,850 a month, compared to an average of $2,190 per month for three comparable nearby developments.

That's nearly 16 percent less in rent, though the average one bedroom apartment at 831 Emerson will be roughly 23 percent smaller than the average one bedroom unit in the four most recently completed developments in Evanston.

A 2014 study from the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University says that with more people living alone and increase housing affordability issues some communities have started to revise their regulations "to permit development of more compact rental housing units."

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Comments

Apt in evanston

So they make the apartments bigger so they can increase the price.  Why not make them bigger and not increase the price.

Better living suggestion

Just my opinion, of course...but all of my friends and I moved to Skokie...where you can rent huge, 2-3 bedroom flats for approx. $1,000/month.  These are with plenty of street parking, near bus routes...large rooms, pantries, porches, fireplaces, yards, etc......well-constructed so you can't hear through the walls, etc......we can't understand the attraction  of these over-priced, cramped-in Evanston units......oh, well...maybe it's the college-minded people who like that...and who want to pay that kind of money for much of nothing.....just sayin'     I do like Evanston, but would never live there.

re affordable housing

We raised our family in Evanston and our children and friends' children cannot afford to live here. So they live in Skokie where housing is much more affordable. The ambiance of commercial areas doesn't begin to measure up to Evanston but the schools are much more multicultural, with all ethnic groups integrated and participating in school and social life. They don't have the lake but they have great community centers, two with swimming pools.

As seniors who are considering our life beyond the home we've owned for almost 50 years, we find that the newer buildings are markeded to young working professionals and have cramped units that are overpriced for the amount of space. So we will stay in our home and pay for services when we can no longer do the work. Or move away from a city that promises that the burgeoning highrises will relieve homeowners from rising property taxes, which never happens.

Things I want to know.

I appreciate Tim Anderson. I live in one of his early condo projects (no comments on later repairs needed, once developer gone). I am really interested in these studies; I want to know what people are doing in their small apartments, versus doing somewhere else. This is fascinating. It's the first time I've gotten a sense that rental real estate is but a piece of some larger, common social interactions. Bill, thanks for posting.