The Mayor’s Housing and Innovation Lab, the Boston Society of Architects and a company called Livelight are taking their Uhu (Urban Housing Unit) on tour around Boston. The 385 square foot, prefabricated home is touted as an affordable, right-sized space for the 66 percent of Bostonians who are single or childless couples.
As seen in the photo, the designers have compressed everything one might need in a studio by combining the kitchen with the living room and putting all the storage needs together. One wonders if the bed folds into a wall or if it has storage. The furniture can also all be purchased “on budget,” although they don’t say what it is.
According to the website, the uhu can be stacked four on top of each other and would ideally be located near transit lines. The small size and prefabricated construction also allow for a much lower price point than conventional apartments.
The micro-unit concept has been around for a while, but has yet to make an impact in cities and the reason isn’t hard to fathom: no matter how ingeniously designed they get, they still run up against the core problem: NIMBYism. A vocal enough group of people in neighborhoods will work to oppose any project, on any justification they can.
In some neighborhoods, such as Cambridge’s Porter Square, deep-pocketed NIMBYs have kept new housing tied up in lawsuits for years. Fortunately, this particular tactic is rare in the Boston area, but it suggests the lengths people will go to oppose housing. Until cities and states take action to limit the abilities of neighborhood groups to block new housing, micro-units are going to remain on tour and not contributing to neighborhoods.
The demonstration model is currently touring Boston neighborhoods: it’s in Roslindale until August 28, then Mattapan, Dorchester, Roxbury, East Boston, Allston and finally the BSA space.