DC’s incredible shrinking apartments

The average size of a rental unit in a newly-built apartment building in 2019 was 737 square feet — almost 90 square feet smaller than the average size in 2010. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/in4mal)

Apartment search and rental data since the COVID-19 pandemic began suggests many D.C. area renters are now looking for more space, but the Washington region has had a decade-long trend toward smaller apartments.

Much smaller.

The average size of a rental unit in a newly-built apartment building in 2019 was 737 square feet, the third-smallest among large metros, behind Seattle and New York City, according to a study by STORAGE Cafe, a division of real estate tracking firm Yardi Matrix. That is also almost 90 square feet smaller than the average size of a newly-delivered apartment in the D.C. area in 2010.

“Apartment size is dictated by supply and demand. There happens to be an uptick in demand because the city registers positive net migration. As a consequence, developers have turned to building smaller units to accommodate more people in desirable neighborhoods,” said Mirela Mohan, real estate editor at STORAGE Cafe.

Renting a two-bedroom apartment in a newly-constructed apartment building around D.C. does not only come at considerable cost, they are increasingly hard to find.

“One-bedroom apartments have grown from 57% of new construction in 2010 to 62% in 2019. When we look at two-bedroom apartments on the other hand, we see they became less popular,” Mohan said.

Two-bedroom units made up just 22% of newly-delivered apartments in the D.C. region in 2019.

Single-family homes being built in the Washington region on the other hand have grown over the past decade.

Between 2010 and 2019, the average size of a newly-built single family home here rose by 336 square feet, a sizable increase.

Still, at an average of 2,190 square feet, the D.C. area ranks third smallest for average newly-built single family home size among the 20 largest metros.

The average size of a newly-built singe-family home in the D.C. area is 16% smaller than the national average in 2019.

The study says Chicago had the largest average square footage for newly-built homes last year, at 3,300 square feet. Jacksonville, Florida, had the largest average newly-delivered apartment size out of the metros studied, at 916 square feet.

The STORAGE Cafe report listing major metros for apartment and single-family square footage changes over the last decade is available online.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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