‘Micro-units’ coming to SLC to help with affordable housing crisis

SALT LAKE CITY — A two acre parcel of prime downtown real estate will become a new trend in affordable housing.

Salt Lake City announced the sale of a block of land at 300 East and 400 South to Giv Group, which will turn it into a $110 million development of apartment buildings that also house a communal food court and office space named “The Exchange.”

“We are trying to make a structure that literally the entire community can grab a bite at, can live at, can work at,” said Giv Group executive director Chris Parker.

The apartments, designed by KTGY Architecture + Planning, will be a mix of upscale and low income housing, including some “micro-units” about 350 square feet in size.

An artist’s rendering of “The Exchange,” a new housing development in downtown Salt Lake City that will feature “micro-units.” (Image by KTGY Architecture + Planning)

“It doesn’t make you pay for something you don’t need,” Parker told FOX 13.

Micro-units are becoming more common in places like Seattle and New York, where rents are sky high. The Salt Lake City Council recently declared an affordable housing crisis with rents rising and wages remaining flat.

“Inherently, it’s more affordable than what you would traditionally see in the market,” said Melissa Jensen, Salt Lake City’s director of Housing and Neighborhood Development.

Jensen said some studio apartments in the downtown area rent for $1,100 a month. In this new development, rents will start at $500 and go up with square footage. It will also be a mix of low income, middle income and upper income housing.

“Micro-units” are smaller in space, but also significantly smaller in price. Parker acknowledged the trade off, but said people who typically rent them don’t spend a lot of time in their apartments anyway.

“You take the space you actually rent, and reduce it to what you actually live in and then make great community spaces where you spend time outside your unit engaging in your community instead of being bunkered into your own unit,” Parker said.

An artist’s rendering of “The Exchange,” a new housing development in downtown Salt Lake City that will feature “micro-units.” (Image by KTGY Architecture + Planning)

The communal food court will share a kitchen, but allow restaurant startups a chance, he added.

The Downtown Alliance called it an “experiment” for Salt Lake City, but one they hoped is successful. The group has called affordable housing a problem facing them.

“We think this is something that could be really effective for downtown Salt Lake City,” said executive director Jason Mathis. “Clearly, there’s a desire to live in the city center. This makes it affordable for people to do that.”