Chicago apartments are growing to accommodate working from home

by Jason Porterfield

New construction apartments are getting bigger in Chicago and other major markets after shrinking in size from 2016 to 2020, according to a recent study by RENTCafe and Yardi Matrix.

Larger apartments are under construction in 33 of the 92 cities analyzed, or 36%. Chicago ranks 16th on the list of cities, with apartments currently under construction that are an average of 37 square feet larger. New apartments there had averaged 800 square feet in size between 2016 and 2020.

The shift toward more spacious units comes in response to more people working from home on a full- or part-time basis and the demand for more room to accommodate home offices, according to Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence at Yardi Matrix.

“The pandemic and working from home has made people more conscious of the space in which they live and work,” Ressler said. “The pandemic has significantly accelerated issues on designers’ minds well before 2020. These issues involve the rise of the home as a workspace, and a deeper emphasis on health and well-being.”

Across all surveyed unit types nationwide, the average size increase is 48 square feet, or just enough room for a small home office or other upgrade for renters who are spending more of their time at home. The extra space could represent a lifestyle upgrade. In multi-bedroom apartments, more room enables renters to more easily share the cost of living with a roommate or carve out a private workspace.

Nationally, the square footage for a one-bedroom apartment nationwide is increasing by an average of 28 square feet, compared to those built between 2016 and 2020, according to the study. Two-bedroom apartments are growing by an average 39 square feet and three-bedroom units by 105 square feet.

In all, 21 of the cities surveyed that had been building smaller apartments from 2016 to 2020 are now places where larger units are being constructed. Those cities all have apartments under construction with floor plans averaging at least 821 square feet.

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