Bloomberg Pushes For Tiny, Formerly Illegal “Micro-Apartments”

A proposed Micro-Apartment layout

If you had one complaint about New York apartments, what would it be? “Not small enough?” That’s what we thought. No need to worry, because Mayor Bloomberg hears you loud and clear! As such, he’s proposed the creation of new “micro-apartments,” which are exactly what they sound like – tiny, crowded spaces catering to the young, single, and desperate. Beats having roommates, no?

The minimum legal size for a single apartment unit is currently 400 square feet with a correlated limit to units-per-building, regulations the mayor is working around by housing the first batch of micro-apartments in a city-owned building on East 27th St. This loophole will allow for units ranging from 275 to 300 square feet, and for the building to fit around 88 of these fun-sized apartments, about twice as many as it would hold with a traditional layout. “This is an opportunity to use design to provide more housing options for New Yorkers,” said Planning commissioner Amanda Burden. “The statistics show we don’t have enough housing for the people who want to live in this city, and designers can help us figure out the best ways to address these problems.”

The city is currently accepting proposals from developers that will fill at least 75% of the building with “micro-units,” which officials say will make financial sense for building owners as well as singles (and new “divorcees,” according to one planner) looking for an affordable place to set up camp, with units likely clocking in under $2,000/month. The program echoes similar proposals in Boston, London, and the Bay Area, and reportedly aims to reduce the number of young people cramming into otherwise unaffordable apartments that ideally would be used by families. Fun fact: apparently it’s illegal for four unrelated adults to share an apartment, and, ironically enough, illegal to live in an apartment’s living room. Who knew?

“This is about creating housing that meets the needs of today’s New Yorkers,” Bloomberg said. “We want people to come here to start their careers here, to start out here, to start their families here. If they can’t afford to live here, then that’s a problem.”

While affordable housing is always an admirable goal and an all-too-rare commodity, Bloomberg’s vision of cheap apartments for every single person that hopes to move to the city is a little, shall we say, ambitious, unless perhaps people start breaking into what we hear is an untouched housing market in East New York. Really though, it’s just the idea of creating spaces that are even more cramped than they already are that’s hard to swallow. But who knows, maybe the city’s design whizzes will prove us wrong?

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  1. Is $2,000 for a small bedroom with built in kitchen & bathroom really considered affordable housing? Are you shitting me?

  2. 275 to 300 square feet for one person is a very typical apartment size in Paris, France. Even 200 square feet is still ‘fine’. Though, we rarely spend much time inside due to lack of space. Don’t do it NYC!

  3. Seems we’ve forgotten that a 400 square foot apartment is what was once considered a “starter” back in the days of traditional upward mobility – a young woman in the secretary pool presumably waiting to be swept off her feet, or a young guy working his way from the lower rungs of corporate whatever. “That” New York largely ceased to exist decades ago, and yet the housing market hasn’t changed all that much, save for rampant speculation and a tax-base-hungry City Hall that favors silly-expensive condos over even *moderately* affordable housing. Just “making the box smaller” won’t do much, if anything, to help things.

  4. Why not shrink the size of politician’s salaries instead of the size of living space for the people that pay the fat cat’s pay check and lavish life style!

  5. Doesn’t this seem incongruous?

    “The statistics show we don’t have enough housing for the people who want to live in this city, and designers can help us figure out the best ways to address these problems.”


    “The city is currently accepting proposals from developers…”


    Designers and developers have completely different interests.

    If design solutions are needed, accept proposals from designers, then perhaps put them together with developers. If profit is the agenda, then yes, give developers a new avenue to increase the number units on a single property – but know that many great designers don’t have relationships with established development teams, and will be unable to contribute ideas. And even if the do have a relationship, someone at that design firm will work very late, underpaid, because a competition is essentially a marketing expense, and its even worse when a developer is the lead.

    Its a question of what, and who’s expertise, is valued. In a market where low-quality housing is already extremely expensive, this is not the way to change the equation.