In many countries overseas particular those with limited land while facing a housing crisis has been looking for various ways of solving it. One solution is micro-housing. Despite the overwhelming property glut in Selangor and other states in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur remains to be a place without sufficient accommodation for city dwellers to live in. A Think City baseline study found that there are about 54,000 workers based in the downtown of Kuala Lumpur area with only 4,800 of them were residents. In the recent UN-Habitat’s 9th World Urban Forum at the KL Convention Centre, unique ideas on communal living are being showcased at the micro homes village.
The idea of implementation is to utilize existing DBKL parking lots, which measures approximately 2.5m x 5m by converting them into micro homes with shared gardens, and communal facilities. Another idea of micro housing is to repurpose aging and outdated commercial buildings to be residential units fit with communal living. Think City’s Program Director, Partnerships Lee Jia Ping has said that Think City aims to increase the economic vibrancy of the area by offering a diversity in residence, demographic and various services.
Who is it for?
Architect Jay Janette based in Seattle Area said that initially students were the main focus for micro housing but surprisingly, young professionals and older adults started to move in. He further elaborated that tenants don’t spend a lot of time at home as they go to work, go out and spend time with their friends and repeat. He added that because of the location in the city, they are able to pursue this lifestyle.
The Possible Benefits
The core idea for micro housing is its price tag. Living at the heart of the city affordably is only a dream to most people. Sky high prices and limited accommodation narrows down accommodation choices for many. They may choose to either commute from distant towns with cheaper rents or opt to share living spaces with a roommate or a relative. Micro housing gives the opportunity for those seeking the city lifestyle at a cost of limited spaces. Micro housing can be an attractive investment for investors with limited budgets. You can be sure that there will be a vast number of people looking for cheap accommodation.
Having located deep in the city itself, amenities are everywhere to be found and any sort of goods or services are easily obtained. As KL was voted the 4th best city for expats in 2017, you can be confident in its diversity and offerings.
Communal living offers the choice of balance between private and common space that are designed to encourage community interaction, something that is not commonly found in fast paced big city lifestyles.
Due to its size and capacity, the environmental footprint created per square foot is smaller than those high energy consuming buildings with few inhabitants within them. This is ideal for environmentally conscious young workers who embraces minimalism while living green in the heart of the city. Utilizing the shared facilities with other residents, not many facilities will be required for maintenance and cost of management upkeep can be relatively low. Using green practices such as installing solar panels, rain water collection and reusing build materials procured elsewhere are some of the possible ways that highlights micro housing can be attractive.
Light and height are two critical factors to micro-housing. In Malaysia, light is not much of a major concern due to its all year bright summer weather. This allows the installation of solar panels on top for self sustainable energy while high ceilings won’t be a requirement given the ample sunlight during the day. However, one major concern is the heat emitted by the scorching sun at certain times of the year. In traditional homes, proper insulation is installed in the roofs and the flow of ventilation is carefully considered. With micro housing, more test need to be conducted to foresee its feasibility from a design perspective. Its very easy for a micro home to turn into a big oven ready to bake its poor inhabitants alive.
Just like any other properties with communal areas such as the usual strata condominiums, continuous maintenance is necessary. This is especially important for micro housing which can quickly become a fire hazard if not kept in check. It is one issue to ensure inhabitants pay their maintenance fees in time and another to keep the whole area in shape and welcoming. Micro housing will require proper planning and evaluation to keep the place in order before implementation.
For micro housing to thrive and sustain for the foreseeable future in fulfilling its core purpose, there needs to be enforcement and cooperation from all parties. This includes a high standard for cleanliness and garbage disposal, including proper recycling procedures and systems. The affordable prices and limited spaces tend to open up opportunities for antisocial attitudes and low responsibilities turning what could have been a healthy communal living into a derelict area filled with negative social behaviors from drug abuse to crime hotspots. As if KL needs anymore crime areas to mushroom up. If you look closely at low cost flats in the surrounding areas, many of them are poorly maintained, garbage and waste are littered on common areas such as staircases and walkways. This leads to irresponsible and the ‘tidak apa’ attitude that shows in the recent case of the boy who was killed by a falling chair at a PPR flat. It is really up to the residents of communal housing to uphold the standards of living in such areas.
What does the future hold for micro housing?
According to an article by freemalaysiatoday, in 20 years time there will no longer be open car parks due to these spaces being re purposed into green areas consisting of micro housing and pocket parks. With the green innovation plan, about 30% of the city will be green areas. Additionally high parking charges will be imposed to encourage the use of public transportation much like what we see in highly populated cities today such as London, Tokyo and Shanghai. In an ideal scenario, we would eventually be able to see an efficient public transportation system that connects with the rest of KL. People will be travelling from one place to another using bicycles and visiting each other in micro homes while recreating the nostalgic closeness of ‘kampung‘ interactions at the heart of a big city.
Overall, micro housing in shared living spaces is definitely not for everyone. Micro housing will probably be suitable for young professionals with chic lifestyles or students living in on a budget. Other social groups such as families or old married couples may find it unsuitable to their palate and may opt for a normal home instead. Do you think micro housing will be the next big thing in the property industry? Would you be interested in living in one?