In Praise Of Micro Apartments

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a jerk because of that proposed limit on soda sizes but I like his proposal for ‘micro apartments’. For one thing, it’s a removal of government power – specifically, a current limit on how small an apartment can be.  As AP reports:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday invited developers to propose ways to turn a Manhattan lot into an apartment building filled mostly with what officials are calling “micro-units” – dwellings complete with a bathroom, built-in kitchenette and enough space for a careful planner to use a fold-out bed as both sleeping space and living room.

If the pilot program is successful, officials could ultimately overturn a requirement established in 1987 that new apartments here be at least 400 square feet.

City planners envision a future in which the young, the cash-poor and empty nesters flock to such small dwellings – each not much bigger than a dorm room. In a pricey real estate market where about one-third of renter households spend more than half their income on rent, it could make housing more affordable.

And San Francisco may go even lower.

“This seems like a logical, necessary response to housing in an extremely high-cost market like San Francisco,” said Tim Colen, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, a largely developer-backed nonprofit that is “solidly behind” cutting the size of the smallest allowable apartment by about a third.

The new minimum would be 150 square feet plus kitchen, bathroom and closet – 220 square feet in total, about the size of a one-car garage. The current minimum with all rooms included is 290 square feet.

“The goal is to provide flexibility to affordable and market-rate developers to produce all sorts of housing,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose proposal to reduce apartment sizes will be considered by the Board of Supervisors on July 24. “The fact is 41 percent of San Franciscans live alone. There are a lot of people who don’t need or can’t afford a lot of space.”

I love the idea of the ‘tiny house’ concept brought to urban spaces.  Get rid of that arbitrary square foot limit and let innovation happen. Want to see real innovation? Here’s a Hong Kong apartment that can morph into 24 different rooms.

This is also a perfect proposal for the age of Digital Plenty we live in. TVs are now hung on the wall, if you need a TV at all. Any hipster with an iPhone, Android, iPad, laptop or tablet now has access to more music than was in a dozen Tower Records (RIP) stores and more books than were in Borders Bookstores (RIP) and more movies than filled Blockbuster Video (soon to be RIP) shops. That means you don’t need bookshelves filled with CDs, books, or DVDs.  You don’t need a bulky stereo and a ton of wires.

You can also use the same equipment to record music, edit a film, write a novel, code a new game, start a business, take classes, publish a blog or a thousands other things.

Need to get out of the small space? It’s New York! Go to a museum. Go to Starbucks. Take a walk in the park.

We live in the future and it’s about time architecture got around to living in the future, too. You can now have a minimal living space but no lack of education, entertainment, art, or information.

1 Comment

  1. The square-footage limit should certainly be reduced or eliminated, but it should be broadcast that the problem that micro-apartments are intended to address – sky-high rents – was at least partly created by other municipal regulations choking the housing market. Restrictive & arbitrary zoning regulations, irrational contracting and licensing regulations, high-cost unions backed by the compulsion of government; these and additional intentionally vague regulations that can only be negotiated/circumvented by those with great wealth and/or political pull all conspire to make a the average studio apartment in Manhattan cost $3000 (or more) per month. New York will always be expensive, because people want to work among high-density clusters of creative people. But it doesn’t have to be this expensive.


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