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Are Micro-Units Right For NYC?

In 2012, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg waived the requirement that all apartments built in the city must be at least 400 square feet, and held a micro-housing design competition. For this project and other micro-housing projects, Mayor Bloomberg designated Kips Bay in Manhattan as the area where the new units will be developed. In 2015, the first unit was built and Mayor de Blasio has heard plenty of concerns from the residents of the city.

While most New York City residents will agree that there is a housing crisis in the city, there is also a “not in my
neighborhood”
attitude when it comes to affordable housing. Mayor de Blasio would like to see at least 80,000 new affordable housing units put in place over the next few years. But with many people living in New York City willing to pay big rents for small apartments, this new micro-housing plan could cause problems for de Blasio.

What Are Micro-Units? Woman standing infrom of an open window

A micro-apartment is usually a unit that is between 250 and 450 squa re feet. The attraction to this type of micro-housing for architects and engineers is developing ways for residents to efficiently use the space they have and create the illusion of space. Many designers are using unique design methods to allow residents to be able to feel like they have all the space they need to live comfortably.

The Difference Between Affordable Housing And Micro-Housing

The biggest difference between affordable housing and micro-housing is that the rent rate for micro-housing is not controlled by the city. While there needs to be some micro-housing units priced between $1,000 and $1,500 per month, the vast majority of these micro-housing units go for anywhere between $2,500 and $3,000 per month.

To help with the appeal of these smaller apartments, developers are offering amenities such as free access to a concierge app, and even butler service for the higher priced apartments. But even the micro-units in the affordable housing area are offering some great services to attract tenants. There are 22 affordable housing units in the very first micro-housing complex in Kips Bay, and 60,000 people applied for one of those apartments.

Residents Raising Their Concerns

The reason that the city put the law in place, to mandate that all apartments built in the city after 1987 had to be larger than 400 square feet, was because developers were building these units as affordable housing, and then allowing them to degrade into low-cost tenements. The city decided to implement the 400 square feet law in 1987, and it was having a positive effect. When Mayor Bloomberg lifted the law to allow for micro-housing in Kips Bay, the residents instantly protested.

The primary concern from residents is that these new micro-housing units are just future tenements in disguise. Despite the influx of new housing laws intended to stop tenement conditions from coming back, the idea that the city is approving the possibility of new tenements has Manhattan residents furious.

The Tiny House Movement

People in the city of New York are already living in apartments smaller than 400 square feet in buildings built prior to when the 1987 law took effect. Those who live in rural areas (in parts of the country where space is plentiful) have started a tiny house movement that is gaining momentum all over the world.

The idea of living in tiny living spaces is not new, and the latest tiny house trend has been amplified by a stream of new television shows that make tiny living seem glamorous. All of this has come together to make these new micro-housing units be in demand, but it is not helping to make them popular with everyone in New York City.

Will History Repeat Itself?

As people in Manhattan continue to complain about the new micro-housing units, more have been built. The first contract was officially awarded soon after the 2012 competition, and that first building was completed in late December. Since then, at least one more micro-housing complex has been built and more are on the way.

However, the people of New York City are concerned that they are destined to re-live history. This concern is due to the expensive rents for a majority of these small apartments, which could mean that there will be a parade of residents into and out of these complexes that eventually leads to more tenements. Only time will tell if Mayor Bloomberg’s idea will help New York City to ease its housing problems and help bring more affordable housing as well.

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