Splaine: Statey in Portsmouth is micro-housing that makes sense

·4 min read

When it comes to affordability in housing, size becomes a primary decision. Rent or own, size can dictate price. Depending on if it's a single person, couple, or family, size can dictate livability and comfort.

Younger people might only need space for themselves. The older among us might want something smaller – less maintenance, not so much to vacuum or grass to mow or driveway to shovel. And reduced space means less to heat or cool.

Seacoast Sunday last week had a headline "A Lot of Quality in a Small Space." The story reviewed special benefits of smaller housing or tiny homes, also called micro-housing. "Micro-housing" could be defined as more simple and smaller than the usual home.

Jim Splaine
Jim Splaine

More: 'A lot of quality in a small space': Tiny home owners take step forward with new Maine law

Statey, which took over the Veterans of Foreign Wars building at the corner of Deer and Bridge Streets in Portsmouth's North End, is moving, and the site has been approved for 21 micro-units approximately 400 to 500 square feet each in a four-story building. They will be market rate, which may be expensive for a lot of people but surely less than many apartments and condos nearby.

More: 21 new apartments in Portsmouth: Second micro-unit housing project gets key approval

More: Micro-apartments at Portsmouth's Statey Bar & Grill site called 'beginning of a trend'

And guess what?! It's location, location, location. I know something about that location. For my first 21 years, my family lived at that very spot. A casual five minute walk to the center of town. Across the street from a beautiful pond with great potential.

Now there's a covered parking lot two minutes away, and a train track that in the not-too-distant future could be a Portsmouth transportation hub when high-speed mag lev trains make their appearance along the east coast corridor.

Let's do more of this. If developers are encouraged to consider this kind of housing, there are numerous locations throughout the city that could be utilized, including mixing commercial and shopping areas with lower-cost micro-housing. It may take a partnership with developers, or we could team up with the Portsmouth Housing Authority. We can do this.

As an investment, micro-housing also makes sense for developers and homeowners who might want a hedge against the next economic depression, which happens every now and then. People who can't afford those $3,000/month apartments or $4,000/monthly mortgages may like a relief valve at the right time.

As a homeowner who lives in about 750 square feet, I can attest that for one person, even two, more space isn't especially necessary. You just end up with less clutter on the floors and walls. For those of us who don't want or cannot afford a large home, it works.

In a Herald October, 2016 interview, I observed, "...home parks, along with micro-units and tiny houses, all offer a solution to the lack of affordable housing in Portsmouth." Rooming houses, even "dormitory-style" with shared facilities for kitchens, properly developed with quality features, could compete cost-wise and comfort-level with other types of housing. It could also help with homelessness. Search "Google" and find many possibilities in other communities. Investing in micro-housing could be a smart option for developers.

Lower-cost quality housing is sorely needed. Two weeks ago in a commentary in this newspaper, Gerald Duffy wrote, "Next time you eat out in Portsmouth, spare a thought for the service workers. They include mostly young people who cook and serve your food and clean up after you. The cost of Portsmouth housing is usually well beyond their means."

More: Duffy: Portsmouth micro-unit project fails: Let’s not repeat the mistake

Current Portsmouth housing prices are also beyond the means of a lot of us who are single and older. We have to be creative, innovative, even daring in the kind of housing we incentivize and encourage. There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to housing. As Portsmouth grows, we need to find ways to allow people of all income levels to live here.

The Statey initiative can be a teaching moment for us. Let's watch and learn. Let's make it work.

Today's quote: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." - often attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, but also a mantra of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc.

Next time: Is Portsmouth ready for police body cams?

Jim Splaine returns to his Seacoastonline column after years of absence while he was in elected office. Variously since 1969 he has been Portsmouth assistant mayor, Police Commissioner, and School Board member, as well as N.H. state senator and representative. He can be reached at jimsplaineportsmouth@gmail.com

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Splaine: Statey in Portsmouth NH is micro-housing that makes sense