Does New York City Need Micro-Studio Apartments?


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.

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