For many Americans, the McMansion and its supersized mortgage payments have lost their luster. At the same time, many people are delaying marriage and living alone for longer periods of time. The shift has led the way for tiny homes with less square footage and almost no wasted space, a phenomenon called micro apartments or micro units.

Micro units are catching on in Europe and Asia due to high population density, but stricter zoning laws have slowed their spread across the United States. Some micro units are as small as 200 square feet, requiring a building variance from some cities, since many have minimum square footage requirements for livable units.

Developers and groups like Citizens Housing & Planning Council, a New York nonprofit, work to support micro housing. Single people comprise almost 30 percent of all households in the United States, according to Sarah Watson, deputy director of the nonprofit. “We have been trying to promote smaller studios because there’s so many single people and not enough legal [housing] options for single adults,” she says. Her organization is working with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to launch a pilot program on East 27th Street to test the idea of relaxing zoning laws and building smaller apartments.

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