Does New York City Need Micro-Studio Apartments?

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Yesterday, Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced a competition for developers to design 275 to 300 square foot studios ("micro-units") that might serve as a model for New York's swelling small-household population -- city stats indicate that NYC has 1.8 million one- and two-person homes and only one million studios and one bedroom apartments.

How it works: The competition entails what's called a "Request for Proposals" for an apartment building made entirely out of these miniature units -- which, by the way, would have bathrooms and kitchens.

However, they would be smaller than what current regs permit. So, Bloomberg will waive some zoning rules so that a City property at 335 East 27th Street -- in Kips Bay -- can serve as an experimental space.

But is this really necessary?

To get a better understanding of the situation, we hit up Eric Klinenberg, NYU sociologist and author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone .

He basically had this to say: Yes, yes, and yes!

"We've probably needed housing for singletons for a long time, but we haven't recognized that need. We haven't really recognized the prevalence of people living alone in cities, and a big reason I wrote this book was to generate debate about it," he said.

Klinenberg -- who only had a few minutes to talk because of prior engagements -- said that he's speaking with the City's planning department about singletons' needs and that the office is very interested in the issue.

"It's hard not to be moved by the numbers: just a little under one in two Manhattan households are one person households," he said.

Unlike affordable housing movements for families, which have generally gained traction, the issue of singletons' cost-of-living hasn't been as addressed, he said.

"We obviously have a need for more affordable housing for ordinary families, and we're aware of that need, but we haven't really come to terms with the fact that so many people in Manhattan are living alone and have their own needs as well."

He also said that another non-singleton demographic would soon need more housing, too -- families experiencing the 'boomerang' phenomenon.

"The city recognizes that there are a lot of families who are struggling because their children are living home longer than before, so there's this kind of boomerang phenomenon in which young people are returning home. Multi-generational households are on the rise, even though living alone is on the rise."

Overall, though, Klinenberg said that smaller is better when it comes to addressing housing needs.

"The city recognizes that there's very strong demand for more affordable, smaller residential units for people of all ages," he said.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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7 comments
John DeBaun
John DeBaun

Would the Mayor live in a micro apt ? Rich fascist !

Cas_eindhoven
Cas_eindhoven

Are people so out of touch as to imagine that Americans -- even New Yorkers! -- would be satisfied by these Japanese-like space constraints??   Meanwhile we have wealthy singletons who live in multiple-room apartments only a fraction of the year! What an absolutely abysmal development in our collective attitude as a society....

Paulo Prado
Paulo Prado

No. It needs less expensive apartments and more jobs.

Kzm Ufc
Kzm Ufc

If I was a billionare and wanted to pave the way for my 1% peers to keep the rest of the population in check, while grabbing the most space for myself... I'd push a plan for tiny little "living" spaces, not much bigger than a prison cell. I'd aim it at 'single people' at 1st, but would eventually push for a nuclear family to live in such a space and....charge accordingly (read as much as I want). It's not as if the 99% aren't already complacent anyway. And by having design a contest among them (so I don't have to lift a finger or suspicions or blame)...I know "investing" in a little prize money now would reap me great benefits in the future. Heh, heh, heh.

guest
guest

rats have more space

Adart
Adart

Who owns the potential test property? Phipps Houses Services, perhaps? Where did the idea originate, with the developer or the Mayor? How much more money will be made by the developer by squeezing "singletons" into these tiny spaces instead of 400-450 sq ft apts? Also, people who live alone also have guests, children, pets, storage needs (a bike for example, or suitcases, or winter coats, etc., etc.). I think it is the developers that stand to benefit the most

MadNYer
MadNYer

Bloomberg's wealthy billionaire real estate developer friends who get tax abatements should be required to build more affordable housing and public housing. Fuck living in a closet.

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