Mayor Bloomberg laid out an innovative apartment prototype to create affordable, though micro, housing options for a growing number of low-and-middle income New Yorkers.
Concluding a design competition launched last July called adAPT NYC, Mayor Bloomberg endorsed a plan developed by Monadnock, nARCHITECTS, and Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation. The development team’s winning “My MicroNY” project, to feature modular apartment units between 250 and 370 square feet, begins on a city-owned site at 335 East 27th Street in Manhattan. Each unit will feature a long window with mini balconies for air and light as well as a convertible living space that can function as a den or dining room during the day and a bedroom at night.
Mayor Bloomberg proposed the adAPT NYC competition to find solutions to the higher growth rate for one and two person households than for households with three or more people. The winning design was selected from 33 bids.
After announcing the winning bid, Mayor Bloomberg praised the city’s innovative approach to urban development. “New York’s ability to adapt with changing times is what made us the world’s greatest city – and it’s going to be what keeps us strong in the 21st Century,” the Mayor said.
The 10 story building will house 55 units, priced between $940 and $1800. Because it’s a prototype, size zoning restrictions will not apply, but all the maintenance will be built to city code. Income restricted units will be decided by lottery and the rest will be filled via applications, with an expected lengthy wait list.
It remains to be seen how the public will respond to these new units, but already they’re getting a mixed reaction.
Environmental psychologist, Sally Augustin, studies the effect of design on people’s mental state and found that happiness in an apartment can depend on an individual’s personality as well as on square footage.
“I think you have to think about the micro-apartments in context,” Augustin said. “Being in a small apartment may be giving people control over their experiences that they might not have otherwise.”
Augustin found that many people choose to live in small apartments due to financial constraints. An affordable micro-apartment could give them freedom and privacy, she said. Micro-apartments can also bring a sense of well-being, she added, inspiring people to be more creative with space. Additionally, they can satisfy the conscience of an environmentalist.
Drawbacks, Augustin found, include feelings of claustrophobia if there is not enough light or annoyance if there is too much noise. Augustin encouraged New Yorkers to think about micro-apartments with an open mind, since good design can make them functional living spaces for certain types of people.
Micro-apartments could impact the city housing market as well, according to city planners at a press conference following the Mayor’s announcement. They said that 40% of the micro-apartments would be reserved for low-income New Yorkers.
But Tom Waters, a housing policy analyst at the Community Service Society, which advocates for low-income families, is doubtful. He said micro-apartments are really meant for high income young people, saying that even the low-range of the units’ costs–$940 per month–is not affordable housing for some residents.
Waters said that in addition to an influx of young professionals, the city is also gaining low income workers. Due to that growth, there’s a need for housing to accommodate lower-middle incomes between $15,000 and $35,000.
Jonathan Furlong, Assistant Director for Community Organizing at the Pratt Area Community Council in Brooklyn, said all housing production was good but that families and older New Yorkers were not having their needs met. “What we see in Brooklyn are families with kids and older adults having problems with their subsidies and steadily getting priced out of their neighborhoods,” Furlong said.
“Our focus needs to be on keeping families together,” Furlong said. “[If] you’re creating a very specific type of housing for a very specific niche it means we’re not creating housing for those other folks who are getting pushed out.”
MetroFocus dug deeper into apartment policy when the contest began.