Restrictions on how and what is built where is an ongoing conversation in any city planning department. Too many rules limit the number of available dwellings, pushing prices to new heights. Too few rules might infringe on the use and enjoyment neighbors are promised when they acquire their homes.
In Japan, teeny tiny apartments are being built to allow more people access to the hot areas of town. These micro apartments are smaller than a ten-by-ten-foot room which is considered a small bedroom in our neck of the woods.
With its high property prices and the world’s most populous metropolitan area, Tokyo has long been known for small accommodations. But these new apartments — known as three-tatami rooms, based on how many standard Japanese floor mats would cover the living space — are pushing the boundaries of normal living.NTY
The article mentions that these units are not at the bottom of the market. They are stylish and new. They are attracting a younger set of renters who see themselves in a higher-end neighborhood and have yet to experience a larger apartment, and thus (perhaps) don’t feel the loss of space. It’s the match of neighborhood amenties, quality of interior finishes and price that make these small spaces work.
And they are situated near trendy locations in central Tokyo like Harajuku, Nakameguro and Shibuya, which are generally quite expensive, with luxury boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Most of the buildings are close to subway stations — the top priority for many young people.
Over two-thirds of the buildings’ residents are people in their 20s, who in Japan earn on average about $17,000 to $20,000 a year, according to government data. (Wages in Tokyo are on the higher end.)
On the other extreme of the housing restriction stories, is the conclusion of a longtime feud between a Marin County (CA) man and local regulators. He’s being evicted, in part, for operating a creative sustainable toilet that has been in use for the past fifty years.
…, he’s built a sanctuary to showcase his ideas about environmental sustainability: the Shower Tower, the Worm Palace (crucial to his composting toilet), the Tea Cave (where he has stored more than 50,000 pounds of rare, aged tea), the Tea Pagoda (where he’s hosted tea ceremonies for friends and dignitaries for more than 40 years) and so many more.
He calls it The Last Resort and he never had permission to build any of it. “I’ve been a scofflaw all my life,” said Mr. Hoffman, 78. “I have to recognize that.”NYT
The battle between this outsider artist and the government has been going on for more than a couple of decades. Ten years ago the NYT ran a similar piece. He has a contingent of supporters and recently had a shot at maintaining the property through a historical designation. But now his eviction seems imminent. Meanwhile, new construction in the San Fransisco Bay area is being stymied by regulation-induced high prices.
This brings up the point that in some areas of the country the use of an outhouse is completely acceptable. On large acreage properties in the wide open plains, there’s no harm done in digging a hole and erectly a one-stall shack with a bench and a door with a half moon. The value or harm of regulations that allow super-small apartments or unstructured sewage disposal is entirely dependent on the group structures and commitments of nearby neighbors.