If you're renting an apartment in Dallas these days, you don't need a survey or an economic study to tell you that rent prices have risen out of control. All you've got to do is look at your bank account and see the giant crater your rent has created in it.
Rentcafe.com lists the average apartment rental rate for Dallas at $1,592 for an 848-square-foot place. The Child Poverty Action Lab also shows that demand is only making it worse because Dallas lacks 33,000 affordable units for people at or below 50% of the median income.
Some Dallas residents have turned to studio apartments and efficiencies while they're looking for something more spacious and not so expensive. Now, a new apartment complex takes this idea and runs with it to offer a more affordable option that's small on space but big on community.
The Bloc House is a new micro-apartment complex that's about to go under construction that offers very small living quarters for the same or a lower price than other average-sized Dallas apartments located in East Dallas along the Santa Fe Trail.
Jon Hetzel, a partner with Madison Partners, which is building the micro-apartment facility, says that the firm expects to have a permit filed in the first part of next year. Construction could take approximately 18 months.
"We aren't reinventing the wheel here," Hetzel says. "We're trying to do it more professionally and nicer than it's been done in the past. We're adding a level of design and thoughtfulness that hasn't existed in other examples, at least not here in Dallas."
Hetzel calls Bloc House's "ultra efficiencies." Each is around 350 square feet, with enough room for a set of Ori Living expandable furniture that can convert sofas and shelving into a bedroom. Bloc House will also offer two-bedroom or micro-studio units for residents who live together or simply want to split the cost of a micro-living space, something Hetzel says he understands all too well.
"I lived in Manhattan after I graduated from college and I had three roommates and we had no living room because we converted the living room into a bedroom," he says with a laugh. "That's the very nature of being 22 and living in Manhattan. I've had to live in tight circumstances myself."
Most new renters simply buy a bunch of temporary furniture and fixtures from places like IKEA, things they don't end up keeping when they move to a new home. Places like Bloc House aim to offer a comfortable living space with furniture options included in the rental price.
"At a high level, what we're trying to do is create something naturally obtainable without having to find a roommate and deal with a roommate," Hetzel says. "We really want to create a sense of community in something that's pretty move-in ready."
The Bloc House's target demographic includes economic sectors that have to fork over a huge chunk of their paycheck to cover the rent, such as recent college graduates or someone moving to Dallas to start a new job who needs a place to stay between residences. Hetzel says the company doesn't yet have an estimated price for the units, but he calls the rates "very rent sensitive."
"The biggest issue with price-setting the rent right now is we won't be delivering them until two years from now, and who knows what the rent will be then?" Hetzel says. "That being said, at a high level, we're generally targeting to be at or slightly below the average studios for the city of Dallas, where most new construction projects are one and a half times that because it's new construction."
Each apartment comes equipped with its own bathroom and efficient kitchen. Hetzel says the vast majority of people who rent apartments with full kitchens cook only for themselves but still have to pay rent for a full stove with four burners along with the extra space needed to store such appliances.
"You're paying the cost for all that in terms of construction," Hetzel says. "You're paying for all the square footage when you're not really using it all the time."
Bloc House also aims to be community-minded with features such as a swimming pool, chalkboards where tenants can leave messages for neighbors and guests, and mixer events such as movie nights so renters can meet and get to know their neighbors.
"I think a lot of what's missing as a society is a lack of community, and so we're thinking through different kinds of ways about how to funnel people through this project to create serendipitous interactions," Hetzel says. "We're designing and programming it in a way where if residents want to meet new people, there's a way to do so."
Hetzel says he hopes Bloc House will offer better options for people looking for a place to stay and create some much needed competition on the Dallas rental scene that could drive down rent prices.
"I'm a big believer in trying to come up with solutions that are naturally market obtainable without massive subsidies," Hetzel says. 'We're able to do this without receiving any subsidies from any government entity. The more this works for people with their lifestyle, it should help."