Urban planners and architects are discovering that young professionals are willing to live in micro-housing – units as small as 350 square feet – just as long as they can afford to reside in the city. Moreover, providing this affordable, small-scale housing may help retain some of the talented young people who are forced to leave Boston for more affordable locales after graduating from college.

Interior Architecture students have designed micro-unit interiors that reflect different lifestyles.Suffolk University Interior Architecture and Design students are helping construct a 300-square-foot micro-unit designed by ADD, Inc., that will serve as a backdrop to the panel discussion “Micro-Housing: Rethinking Urban Living,” from 7:45 to 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, March 26, at the Modern Theatre, 525 Washington St., Boston. The students also have designed several interior themes to assist in marketing the units, and these will displayed in the Modern Theatre lobby.

“This micro-unit movement is not just about cheaper rent; it really is an extension of the zipcar, social media, green/eco, digital and entrepreneurial collaborative generation,” said Richard Taylor, executive in residence at Sawyer Business School and director of the Center for Real Estate at Suffolk University. “These young folks want to spend less time in their ’homes’ and more time getting together to expand their intellectual, cultural and social horizons at this important time in their lives. Exciting urban areas like Boston are the beneficiary of this new lifestyle.”

Boston is experimenting with the micro-housing concept, with the city encouraging developers to build micro-units in the South Boston Innovation District. For perspective, a micro-unit would accommodate a small kitchen, bed and tiny bathroom – with a bit of room to move around.

The forum, a joint effort of the Center for Real Estate at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, is the third in a series of Building Boston 2030 public forums.

Panelists

  • Professor Karen Clarke, co-director of the Interior Architecture and Design program, New England School of Arts and Design at Suffolk University
  • Michael Glass, Head of Leadership and Organizational Development, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • Tamara Roy, senior associate principal, ADD Inc. architectural designers
  • Kelly Saito, president, Gerding Edlen, property development and management
  • Kairos Shen, chief planner, Boston Redevelopment Authority
  • Moderator: NECN Business Editor Peter Howe

Taylor is studying how micro-housing will affect the Greater Boston markets. He has learned that small units work well if you invest in common areas, like roof decks, cafes and gyms, that allow residents to eat, work and socialize outside of their individual units.

He also has engaged Suffolk University students in a mapping study of price points for micro-housing within reach of MBTA service.

“Our data sought to explore the rental price differences in neighborhoods outside of the Innovation District that are close to the transit system,” said Taylor. “The young professional crowd needs more affordable options that allow them to take advantage of dynamic, innovative, culturally rich Boston, while being able to take public transportation to the explosive job growth sectors of pharma, life sciences, technology, and the medical and educational sectors.”

The Building Boston 2030 public forums on Boston development encourage dialogue on public policies and business considerations that can help Boston continue to create good jobs, attract and retain a skilled workforce, and attract private capital to spur innovation. The programs are open to the public.

For updates on the series, follow @SuBizSchool on Twitter and use the hashtag: #BuildBoston.

Above: Interior Architecture students have designed micro-unit interiors that reflect different lifestyles.