Meet your future: teeny tiny apartments. Uh, yay?

You better do the dishes, since you're sleeping in the kitchen. via NYC Mayor's Office
You better do the dishes, since you’re sleeping in the kitchen. via NYC Mayor’s Office

The rent in this city is too damn high! I know it, you know it, everyone knows it. Everyone, of course, except for the people running the show. It’s easy to feel helpless out there, brokesters. We sometimes wonder if it’s worth the stress and the exhaustion, paying so much for so little in this little polluted place we love. But worry not, the future of housing development is upon us. Mayor Bloomberg has heard our cry: give us liberty, or give us…mini stackable apartment units?

That’s right, today the Bloomberg administration showed us the future, and unsurprisingly, it’s a little, uh, bleak. The mayor’s idea of improving the housing situation is apparently giving us the opportunity to indulge in a our very own modular units. My Micro NYC boasts living spaces between 250 and 375 square feet, which is about 200 square feet smaller than the previous legal requirement for a housing. According to The Observer, the apartments are going up in Murray hill, with 40 percent of them slated for low and middle-income housing. All the apartments will still be between $940 and $1800 though.

But look! They stack on top of each other! How cute! I almost forgot that I can barely afford the cost of living!

But I get it, kind of. Housing in New York City is becoming kind of a parody of itself. Brooklyn residents are being priced out into Manhattan, and DUMBO studios are running at upwards of $3,000 a month. Search for a 1-bedroom in Manhattan for $1,000 on Craigslist, it’s a joke. North Dakota is even looking like a viable option. But this is maybe taking it a little too far. We wanted our technology smaller, not our apartments.

See? It's fine, just get a fold-out bed, like every stable adult owns. via the Observer
See? It’s fine, just get a fold-out bed, like every stable adult owns. via the Observer

Something about this approach just seems slightly amiss. While it acknowledges a very real problem in our city, what we have here is just another example of Bloomberg totally missing the point.

In this way, the city of the future isn’t too far off from the city of the past. This may be posed as part of a solution, but in no way can we call it progress. While they’re not exactly tenements, the idea of modular housing isn’t that far off: packing a ton of people into an unreasonably small space and passing it off as a favor from the city. It’s no slum, but I suspect that there must be a better housing option out there than this, which is basically the equivalent of stuffing people into stackable sample Ikea units (awesome only in theory). Oh, and they’re kind of ugly, too.

So we’re gonna call bullshit on this one. Bloomberg, you can do better. What this city needs is steps toward a better quality of life, not a cute, kitschy project that vaguely resembles a Jetsons future. And besides, if we’re headed in that direction, you can at least give us the flying cars and robot maids we were promised.


  1. Duckie

    I don’t think that this is as bad an idea as you do. It really fills a niche that disappeared when the city eliminated many of the Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing options. Many SROs were truly shitty but they offered something that is missing in NYC right now; a foot in the door, a toehold. These units are exactly the right thing for the person who wants to come to NYC to chase their dreams especially if they don’t know many people in the city. The smallness of the apartment will encourage them to go out and explore rather than stay holed up in their little cave and the size may help them strive to improve their living arrangement. It’s not much more than a dorm room, but that’s all that some people will need to get established or to set out on their own. A 55 unit building as an experiment will be a good opportunity to see if it works.

  2. Not a bad idea at all. Confused about what the author would consider a viable alternative. The units themselves actually look quite nice as well. Less space does not necessarily equate to a lower standard of living. A small space with nice, new furnishings and shared amenities sounds great to me.

    And whats with this misconception that modular construction somehow equals small, shitty spaces? This is entirely false, as this type of construction can be used to assemble units of any size or shape (read: sizable 2 bedroom units at Atlantic Yards towers, Blu Homes prefab homes, etc.).

  3. synanonymous

    I’m all for the idea of my own space even at 200-300 sqft (even less if it was done correctly). When the plan/contest was announced, I saw a few quite fantastic designs, my favorite involving a unit where the bathroom, galley kitchen and bed (sans separate room) were constructed within a single block unit within the otherwise open space, the bed being fitted in a space above the kitchen and bathroom and accessible by stairs (instead of a ladder, thankfully); the rest was open.

    However, my issues with the way this is being implemented are two fold:

    1) the rents will not be reasonable; they may start at a “reasonable” amount but they will quickly sky rocket; when rent for people making even more than double median wages goes well beyond 30% of their income (35…40…50…60%!!!), and few if any options exist anywhere but the farthest flung areas, tax payer subsidized units, or multiple roommates (in far flung areas), something is amiss;

    2) these model units are a serious let down; they are absolutely pathetic compared to some of the really neat ideas I saw several months ago (see above;

    Mommy and daddy will be subsidizing these units as well soon enough. The real estate industry/management companies in this city wield the kind of control that distorts “traditional” economic models (akin to Wall Street distorting national and global markets).

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