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The smallest apartments in America are in this city in the Northwest

Sarah Paynter
·Reporter
·2 min read

The smallest, most cramped apartments available aren’t in New York City. They’re not in San Francisco, either.

Portland, Oregon, has the smallest apartments on average of any city in the United States, according to a new Apartment Guide study. The city’s small apartment sizes reflect Portland’s reputation for a youthful, offbeat population.

“There was a push for ‘efficiency’ units for people who are looking to get into up-and-coming areas affordably. So they put smaller units on the market, like co-living or dorm-style housing,” said Brian Carberry, senior managing editor at Apartment Guide.

Studio apartments on the market in Portland are just 435 square feet on average, while one-bedrooms average 644 square feet, and two-bedrooms are just 935 square feet on average, according to the study. San Francisco apartments are larger: 514-square-foot studio apartments, 719-square-foot one bedrooms and 1,047-square-foot two-bedroom apartments on average. New York City apartments were so large by comparison that the Big Apple didn’t even make it on the list of cities with the smallest apartments.

“The city of Portland offers a tremendous opportunity because of its dynamic culture, consistent growth, and need for innovative higher-density housing solutions," said Ted Homma, CEO of California-based HOMMA, which started construction on a 24,000-square-foot, 18-unit apartment building in Portland Tuesday morning.

Young woman having tea in her tiny house
Developers build small apartments for young, single Portlandians who are willing to live in tight quarters to access the city’s amenities like bike-lanes, cafes and trails.

Developers build small apartments for young, single Portlandians who are willing to live in tight quarters to access the city’s amenities like bike-lanes, cafes and trails. Some 29.3% of Portlandians are millennials, compared to 20.5% of the U.S. population. And less than 39.7% of Portland’s population was married in 2019, compared to 47.6% nationally, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Portland tends to foster a communal vibe, a socially connected life that minimizes the need for spacious living quarters in favor of sustainable space,” said the study.

But ‘efficiency’ units became less popular during the coronavirus pandemic, when residents were forced to spend more time in their small apartments — prompting many to move to the suburbs. The flight to the suburbs is causing rent prices to fall. In Portland, rent fell 6% in October from the same time last year (compared to 1.4% nationally) to an average $1,146 for a one-bedroom apartment, according to Apartment List, a San Francisco-based apartment listing site.

“Right now, a lot of people are looking for more space, especially in an apartment in a city with lockdowns, people are going stir crazy in their 500-square-foot apartments,” said Carberry.

Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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