The fourth proposed regulation on micro-housing concerns minimum square footage of communal areas.

The city would like to require a minimum square footage for the kitchen. This issue was raised because some of the micro-housing projects have kitchen sizes as small as 50 square feet. The city’s proposal on this issue is particularly mushy. The argument for this minimum boils down to this statement:

A 120 square foot kitchen (i.e. 10’x12’ or 8’x15’) is a size that can be used for cooking by more than one person at a time, and is likely to include adequate space for a table and chairs for eating meals.

There are a few problems with this argument:

1. Is a 120 sqft required for more than one person to be cooking? The answer to this is obviously false. I know this because I currently live in an apartment with a kitchen smaller than this and frequently cook with someone else. Additionally, I once lived in a building with about 30 people and a kitchen that was less than 100 square feet. It wasn’t comfortable but it worked.

2. If the goal is to accommodate a certain number of people in the kitchen at a time, why isn’t the number of people explicitly stated?  Do you need a 120 sqft for 2 people, 3, maybe 4?

3. The city doesn’t present evidence that a certain amount of square footage is required. It simply makes a statement.

4. If the concern is to accommodate enough people and that is relative to the units the kitchen serves, why would the rule be the same across all mico-housing. For example, some micro-housing might have 8 units, others 7 units and some 6. In fact some could have even less than 6 but still have the same kitchen requirement.

5. Most importantly, it seems like the city is trying to dictate lifestyle here. It is likely that many people choosing to live in a residence with a shared kitchen are people who choose not to cook or cook minimally.

I cook a lot and I would never choose to live in an apartment without a kitchen. In the past though I have chosen to live in places that had pretty poor kitchen facilities and I still cooked frequently. The reason I chose this is because paying a lower rent was more important than having a fancy kitchen. I’m happy I got to make this choice. In Seattle, many people might not even have a choice.


Article Author
Owen Pickford holding a beer, wearing a Sounders shirt in front of a bridge, river and large towers in Tokyo.
Owen Pickford

Owen is a solutions engineer for a software company. He has an amateur interest in urban policy, focusing on housing. His primary mode is a bicycle but isn't ashamed of riding down the hill and taking the bus back up. Feel free to tweet at him: @pickovven.