London’s latest micro flats meet the country’s minimum space requirements. Technically.
They’re built for one person. There's only a shower, no bathtub allowed or they violate minimum size regulations. And if the concept works, its deep-pocketed New York backer may try to export the model.
These flats from Pocket Living were hailed this week by the new British housing minister at the ruling Conservative Party’s conference as a way to give young people the chance to buy in an ever-tighter market and help ease a growing housing crisis. In England alone, some 300,000 new units need to be built each year to increase affordability, estate agents Savills estimates, but only about 200,000 go up.
Pocket is based in London but co-owned by Related Cos., the New York developer better known for jaw-dropping developments such as the Time Warner Center or a new building by the late starchitecht Zaha Hadid that features a $50 million penthouse adjacent to the High Line. (The penthouse designed by the Pritzker Prize–winner has five bedrooms and 6,853 square feet, enough space for more than 16 Pocket apartments.)
Pocket says it includes just enough space and amenities to make the apartment livable within 38 square meters (409 square feet), one meter larger than the minimum requirement for one person with no bathtub. (An apartment with sleeping space for two people requires 50 square meters, a regulation that’s practically impossible to enforce). The units have sold for between £165,000 ($204,000) and £300,000, priced at a discount to other one bedrooms in the neighborhood.
The floor plan for a typical, 409-square-foot apartment built by Pocket Living.
Source: Pocket Living
Related acquired a 50% stake in Pocket in February, a deal that valued the company at around £25 million, company officials said. Related, also behind the Hudson Yards development in Manhattan, says it started out financing affordable housing in the 1970s. Pocket is Related’s first foray into micro-apartments.
Now Related wants to learn whether Pocket’s model could work outside the U.K., said Ken Wong, chief operating officer in New York.
“We would love to see their ideas, if not their direct product, translate into other markets, into other cities,” Wong said. “The question of whether it fits into the building codes and whether the business can work ... is going to be the challenge.”
Steve Reed, a Labour party MP for an area in south London, said he visited a Pocket development and wasn't impressed.
“The smaller and smaller you make them, the more people you try to squeeze in, you’re kind of on a relentless path to systematic overcrowding,” he said. “I don’t think it’s good for people’s health and well being to live in circumstances like that.”
He says the real need he sees is for “proper sized homes” for families.
The U.K. government wants 1 million new homes to be built by 2020, a goal set by former Prime Minister David Cameron and retained by the current leadership.