While Kakaako is better known for luxury condos than affordable housing, the growing urban district in Honolulu could soon see a new kind of residence: tiny studio apartments no bigger than 300 square feet, or about 15 by 20 feet.

They’re called “micro” units, and they’ve been gaining popularity in expensive cities ranging from Boston to San Francisco.

Building cranes on new construction in Kakaako area on July 21, 2014

Building cranes on new construction in Kakaako area on July 21, 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Granted, Honolulu’s homes are already pretty small. The real estate website Trulia found that the median square footage of an “affordable” home in Honolulu is just 750 square feet, even less than New York or San Francisco.

Still, advocates for micro units, who include social justice organizations like the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, say that they’re a realistic way of tackling Hawaii’s affordable housing crisis.

On Wednesday, the staff at Hawaii Community Development Authority, the state agency that manages development in Kakaako, unanimously recommended that HCDA’s executive director issue a request for proposal to turn the state-owned parking lot at 630 Cooke Street into an eight-story, 70-unit pilot project for tiny apartments just five minutes from Kakaako’s planned rail station.

Lindsey Doi, the agency’s spokeswoman, said that the board agreed Wednesday that the director should move forward with issuing the request for proposal. HCDA could choose a developer as soon as next February.

The units would be affordable for people earning no more than 100 percent of area median income, or $57,820 per year, with 40 percent of the units set aside for people earning less than 60 percent of area median income.

That’s a lot less than the HCDA’s current reserved housing rules which target residents earning up to 140 percent of area median income.

Read HCDA’s staff report here:

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