I am a building developer. It is not my primary occupation, which is communications, but I find myself now part of a small, four-unit (or four-condo) development in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood.

In reference to the Portland Press Herald’s Oct. 26 story on tiny RV homes in Bayside, I would like to add perspective on Portland’s housing problem and discuss why we are building four typical-sized condos at 180 Washington Ave., rather than “tiny condos” or “micro-apartments.” The primary reasons are parking requirements, building height limitations and the 400-square-foot minimum for each unit of housing in a new multi-family building.

First, micro-units can be awesome!

If a unit is built at 300 square feet with 11-foot ceilings instead of the typical 7-foot, 6-inch ceilings, space for utility of living can be arranged efficiently with progressive design. One example is a bathroom with a 6-foot, 6-inch ceiling, located under a loft bed with a 4-foot, 6-inch ceiling (both are within the same floor of the unit).

Micro-apartment projects in cities such as New York and San Francisco are now receiving exemptions to zoning rules, which, of course, were created years ago, when lifestyles were much different. Many single people today would rather live alone, and a micro-apartment makes sense for them.

With progressive designs, the livability of a micro-apartment at 300 square feet can be similar to the livability of one twice its size. Many testimonials of this are available online.

If the building development that I am part of were allowed to include micro-units – perhaps four units per floor for a total of 16 – rents of $500 per month could be charged. The numbers on this would result in a profit on 16 tiny condos, priced at $125,000 each, comparable to the profit on four average-sized condos (and, with tax incentives, possibly even higher).

So now a developer has incentive to build micro-apartments instead of typical-sized condos.

In addition, the building project that I am part of is going to be a passive house, which is a building with a thicker, exterior envelope and triple-glazed windows. The new Friends School in Falmouth is a passive house, and it was recently announced that that the energy-efficient building is now a net-zero structure, which means it produces as much energy – solar, in this case – as it uses (nice on the budget).

In fact, with the multi-family passive house concept, a unit with no heating can maintain an interior temperature – even in the dead of winter – of at least 55 degrees. That’s nice to have during a power outage.

A passive house also results in uniform, fresh air at 72 degrees. There is no more turning down the thermostat in the winter to save money. (Who would miss that?)

In a city, the majority of the pollution comes from buildings. And the irony of this is that Maine’s per capita building carbon footprint is higher than most because of our colder winters and the use of oil over gas. We don’t think of Mainers as being polluters, but per capita it is a fact.

Avery Yale Kamila, who writes on progressive food options as the Press Herald’s Vegan Kitchen columnist, is a Facebook friend of mine and posted a link to the aforementioned Press Herald article on tiny RV homes. In the Facebook comment thread, she wrote, “Why is it okay to house dozens of people (homeless) on thin mats in a room full of other people but not okay for one or two to live in a tiny RV home (or micro apartment)?” Good question, Avery.

A creative symposium hosted by the city and attended by city planners, building developers, architects, interior designers and bankers (for rent-to-own options) is a good start to developing realistic solutions and amending laws to alleviate Portland’s housing problem. Portland was voted the most livable city in America by Forbes in 2009. It would be nice to keep that accolade current.