In the wake of entering New York City’s competition adAPT NYC I have been thinking about micro-housing. The competition asked for an architect-developer team to submit design & financial proposals for very small affordable housing units. The final outcome will be a real building on a real site in Manhattan. The apartments were specified to be between 250 and 350 square feet. This is smaller than is currently allowed by New York City zoning. They did not release the entries from complying with the space consuming handicapped accessibilities standards. If you had to choose between getting out of bed on both side of the bed or opening the bathroom door from your wheelchair the choice is obvious, opening the bathroom door is the right answer. But the question that has me thinking was the affordability component. Wasn’t this a return to the SRO (single room occupancy) apartments that still exist in less affluent neighborhoods of New York?
There is an obvious market for very small apartments in New York City. All of us who shared their first apartment with uncountable roommates can see the potential. Imagine coming home to your own private space for those few hours that you are not working or playing. The city will have to regulate the exchange of square footage for some common desirable facilities. Something similar to the Quality Housing regulations but instead of additional floor area because you planted a tree you could reduce the size of every apartment for every bike parking space provided. A little more square footage could be removed for energy or water savings above and beyond current codes. Of course the smaller size will be more efficient in terms of energy and material than conventional apartments.
The adAPT NYC will build on city owned property in Manhattan but very small market rate apartments could be zoned for any area of the city with good public transportation.