Studio apartments are not big in Chennai, but that could soon change with changing social norms and the huge influx of young software professionals. eports

It's difficult to sell studio apartments in Chennai. And it will be, for some more time. However, unmindful of the odds, a few builders have begun to market the concept of ‘matchbox houses' on OMR, where a huge number of young IT professionals live away from home and look for accommodation that's affordable and easy to maintain.

The most significant move has been made by Doshi Housing, which offers 20 studio apartments, ranging from 275 sq.ft to 380 sq.ft. (including common area), in its project Etiopia – II in Perungudi, OMR. In addition, this project has 12 semi-studio apartments in the size band of 415 sq.ft. to 460 sq.ft (including common area), which fall in the blurred region between studio apartments and one-bedroom flats.

Further down the IT Highway, in Thaiyur, Vijay Shanti Builders has devoted an entire floor in its Lotus Pond project to studio apartments as small as 350 sq.ft and highly compact single-bedroom apartments.

“Studio apartments are an emerging trend on OMR,” says Mehul Doshi, director, Doshi Housing. “We offered these apartments, targeting young IT professionals who want small, easy-to-maintain living spaces and, at the same time, look for bite-sized home loans that bring in noticeable tax benefits. These studio flats also appeal to those who want to buy flats as investment and rent them out to young IT professionals.”

Yogan Senthil Kumar, an R&D expert at an MNC, has gone in for a studio apartment with a carpet space of 200 sq.ft. He is encouraged that demand for housing on OMR is rising rapidly and he will eventually rent out his flat. “But I have uses for it now,” says Yogan. “As the studio apartment is a short walk away from my house on OMR, it can be my workspace. On such occasions, I can enjoy the amenities offered in this gated project, which includes a swimming pool. My wife Sujatha has suggested that Vikram, our 14-year-old son, prepare for his Board exams here without the distractions of television.”

“Given the nature of the IT industry, where professionals are encouraged to pull up stakes and move to newer places for more challenging projects, studio apartments will gain in significance,” says Suresh Jain, managing director, Vijay Shanthi Builders.

Take Suresh Kumar Vijayaraghavan, who considers it pointless to invest in a big apartment. when he is not certain of continuing to work in the city. “My next project can take me to some other city and, therefore, I decided to buy a semi-studio apartment with a carpet space of roughly 370 sq.ft. Why should I invest in a plush Rs. 1 crore apartment?,” says Suresh kumar, employed with a software company on OMR. Yogan echoes the sentiment. “A few years down the line, I may relocate to another city. In that eventuality, I need only a cosy little place to stay at when I visit Chennai. If we move out of the city but our son takes up college education here, he can stay at this flat instead of a hostel. Whoever uses it — my son or I— keeping this studio flat in order will not be a hassle. For the same reason, studio apartments are ideal for senior citizens, provided help is at hand.”

Besides exigencies of work, Suresh Kumar lists culture as a major driver of housing choices. “In the West, where independence is valued and relationships are more fragile, studio flats are common. When the joint family system held sway, Indian houses were big. After the system crumbled and nuclear families became the norm, houses shrank in size. Similarly, the nascent interest in studio flats in our country reflects a cultural change,” says Suresh, adding, “I chose a semi-studio apartment, which has a small additional room, because I got married recently and expect relatives to visit me.”

“It is usually a combination of factors, capped by economic considerations [that drive the choice of a studio flat],” says Pratish Devadoss, managing director, VGN Developers. “Studio flats spring up in places where housing is prohibitive and which have high concentrations of young professionals with good purchasing power. In Mumbai, where housing comes at a steep price, studio apartments are well received. In Chennai, semi-studio apartments — with a small extra room that can serve multiple purposes — are already popular. With more economic growth, studio apartments will also be better received here. Not just on OMR, but on all industrial corridors.”