While there’s a case to be made that micro-apartments might make sense in densely packed Manhattan, where housing is limited and far more people live alone than the national average (even if the subsidy is unjustifiable), the micro-apartment trend is spreading into cities with plenty of elbow room. Cleveland, where the population has declined some 60 percent since its postwar high, is now seeing micro-apartment development. In Providence, Rhode Island, where the population has declined significantly, the Arcade, America’s first indoor shopping mall—an early nineteenth-century architectural jewel, modeled on the passages of Paris—is being converted into micro-apartments. In Redmond, Washington, in a region of the country famed for its wilderness and low population density, the Tudor Manor apartment building has units as small as 150 square feet. Some micro-apartments feature their own full kitchens, but those on the smaller end come with only private kitchenettes and shared kitchens. Just about all come with tiny private bathrooms…

In justifying the subsidies and zoning waivers, their supporters hail micro-apartments as “affordable housing.” But this doesn’t hold up. Across the country, micro-apartments that don’t have income restrictions attached tend to rent for nearly as much as, or sometimes even more than, extant—and by definition, larger—studio apartments. Bloomberg’s micro-apartments, with free-market units expected to fetch more than $2,000 a month, roughly equivalent to the average New York studio rent of $1,950. (Moreover, the rent “is 40 percent higher than the median New York City household can sustain without infringing on basic necessities,” notes the Gotham Gazette.) In Boston, units in a building of 350-square-foot micro-apartments will be priced between $1,200 and $1,600 a month. In 2011, the average rent for a 485-square-foot apartment in Beantown was $1,215. At Portland, Oregon’s “Freedom Center” micro-apartments, a 267-square-foot studio rents for $865. The average one-bedroom Portland apartment rents for $774 a month.