by Chason Gordon
– The Capitol Hill Times –
The American space program has been suffering of late. We simply can’t find enough people willing to spend six months to a year living inside a small capsule in outer space. Recently, however, a few brave Americans have stepped up and begun training in so-called aPodments, a micro-apartment being built by Calhoun Properties in Seattle. What’s that? They have nothing to do with the space program? Oh. Well, at least the title was clever.
For ages, residents of Capitol Hill have been criticizing the lack of affordable housing, and so developers said, “You want affordable housing? Have all the affordable housing you want!” Seemingly overnight, aPodments sprung up all over the hill like rentable corn stalks. They are extremely tiny apartments, occasionally as small as 150 square feet, with little kitchenettes and bathrooms, and access to a shared kitchen and a communal deck. Many are furnished and include utilities and Wi-Fi. But the main point is the smallness. When everyone saw them, they were like, “Whoa, that is totally not what we meant by affordable housing.”
Many of the units are being rented by 20-something students and young professionals and elves making cookies. What makes their space feel smaller, I imagine, is that they’re at the center of a heated debate about the viability of aPodments (I hate this word). Opponents of aPodments argue the buildings are cheaply made eyesores, not proper places to live, and that the lack of underground parking will lead to even fewer spaces available on the Hill. Defenders are like, “Well, allow me to retort,” and say the buildings are creative solutions to pricing problems, adding that many of the residents don’t own cars anyway.
Many defenders of aPodments claim that people don’t need more. “It has everything I need,” residents are often quoted as saying. What is all this crap about not “needing more?” I’m a want man myself; I don’t care what a person is supposed to need. I just want things. Sure, often I can’t “afford” them because I’m not “responsible” enough, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting them. It’s not even a matter of needing or wanting things – you have to take them. They’re just sitting there waiting for you take them. Do you have the balls? Are you man enough to take them? Is it too obvious that I’ve seen “Glengarry Glen Ross” 20 times?
The word that you hear most often with regards to the issue is “density.” It’s density this and density that and you don’t return my phone calls yada yada yada. Everyone talks about wanting more density, and then they walk around the neighborhood wearing headphones. Whatever. How much density do we want exactly? Are we aiming for downtown Tokyo, or a dystopian science fiction film? I can appreciate the idea of density, but I also like vacant open spaces, like an empty Denny’s on the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio. That has value too. Besides, on a molecular level, there’s very little difference between density and empty space. You better call those people who clean up crime scenes, because I just blew your mind.
To be honest, I would have a little trouble living in one of these units. Space is very important to me. I’m a big pacer (I’m pacing right now), and I love throwing bouncy balls against the wall, like Nicholson in “The Shining.” It’s also important that I lay down on the floor like a starfish on a regular basis. If I can’t do any of these things, it’s not worth living there.
But I wanted to be fair. I dropped by one of the aPodments (such a dumb word) on E. John in an attempt to rid myself of preconceived notions, like the belief that aPodments birth you in addition to housing you, or that the walls crush residents and spit them out the side when the rent’s late (“Shut down the trash compactor on the detention level!”). I had a friend install a hidden video camera on my lapel, and then my editor reminded me that we’re a newspaper, not a television show. “Oh, right.”
The place was certainly as small as everyone said it was. It’s like when a friend tells you his food tastes bad, and then you try it for some reason, and say, “Yeah, that is really bad.” The room I saw was about 160 square feet. Upon seeing it, I said, “Is this where I park my car? Seriously, where’s the apartment?” Okay, okay, I didn’t actually ask those questions. Do you like to ruin magic shows too? Jeez.
As small as it was, the aPodment, along with a shared kitchen and rooftop deck was certainly livable. I do have to give credit to the builders for one thing: the rooms were incredibly quiet, although when you opened the window, you could hear a person yelling, “You are being victimized!” That might get annoying after a while.
Whatever your position on aPodments, it’s pretty clear who’s to blame for them: Japan. You heard me Japan! What with anime and sushi influencing our culture, it was only a matter of time before we imported Japanese micro-homes. They’ve made their move, but we’ll strike back, and when we do, it will be big. It will be showy. It will be American.
Follow Mr. Gordon on Twitter @chasongordon.