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'Making Room' for Another Million

New York City is expected to grow by a million more people by 2030. Supporting these residents will require an overhaul of the city's housing models and regulations. Future Cities recently visited the Making Room exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York to talk micro-units, outdated zoning laws, and the future of NYC.
Monday, February 25, 2013 11:30 EST | 35
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Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
3/7/2013 9:51:14 AM
User Rank Staff
San Francisco
Just saw on CBS that San Francisco is embracing the tiniest of micro-apartments. As one new tenant says, it beats having a roommate.

lrfma
lrfma  
3/1/2013 5:12:55 PM
User Rank Village Voice
Re: SROs?
Judging from the fact that this is not an isolated phenomenon  at Tokyo and pictures of these people actually entertaining friends in that space, I would have to say they are  OK with it.  I personally live in a single family house so my idea of reasonable living space would be quite different from theirs or yours.  I am in favor of having  a range of choices and letting the individual decide what is acceptable/desirable to him/her.

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
3/1/2013 2:09:30 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: SROs?
@lrfma: I've heard about these, but this seems extreme to me. While I think people can do just fine in fewer than 400 sq. ft., perhaps there should be a minimum standard. In my mind, that minimum would be quite a bit larger than these lockers/coffins.

What do you think?

lrfma
lrfma  
3/1/2013 2:06:38 PM
User Rank Village Voice
Re: SROs?
This will provide room for even more people.  Japanese are way ahead of Mayor Bloomberg.  Maybe he could lead by example.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2286069/Living-box-The-tiny-coffin-apartments-Tokyo-cost-400-month-rent.html

 

Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner  
2/28/2013 3:11:31 PM
User Rank City Slicker
Re: SROs?
Yeah, my wife and I have a ton of books. 

Literally. 

Actually, probably ton(s). More than one. 

I'm in the process of going through mine and getting rid of the ones that don't have value as artifacts. The Heinlein and Larry Niven paperbacks I read to tatters as a teen-ager? I'm definitely keeping those. The Stephen King books I read in my 20s? Well, King's an awesome writer but I'm unlikely to re-read those, and if I do I'm willing to repurchase them as ebooks. 

Like you, I live in a city. Although my variety is the sprawling, automobile-based American Southwest variety, space is at a premium here too. 

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
2/28/2013 3:01:06 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: SROs?
Mitch, your question about "stuff" is exactly what Alan Reiter is exploring in his blog today about cities preparing for "digital nomads."

Frankly, we can probably all look around our dwellings and see how many things we own that we rarely touch, use, wear, notice, etc. I could downsize a whole lot by getting rid of my bookshelf, which takes up a full wall, and replacing it with an e-reader... I won't, because I don't want to. But this digital age is very friendly to the nomadic type, and cities would do well to consider ways to appeal to them.

Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner  
2/27/2013 8:00:21 PM
User Rank City Slicker
Re: SROs?
Nicole, as you may recall, I grew up near New York but never lived in the city. I've heard some people say what you say -- that for all New Yorkers, the apartment is just a stopover to somewhere else, for all New Yorkers. And others say that all New Yorkers spend all their time in their apartments. This suggests that some people spend a lot of time out, others spend a lot of time at home, and that the former group could well be served by micro-units. 

I'm intrigued by the idea of how little stuff a middle-class Western person can own and still be happy. A few changes of clothes, a couple of smart devices, and some sticks of furniture, and that's all? Or can a person get by with even less?

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
2/27/2013 7:31:01 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: SROs?
I'll need to look into the history of SROs, Mitch, but as for your point at the end there, about single people, or childless couples, that's up for debate. Speaking as a person living on my own in NYC, I have never felt the need to have anything larger than a studio apartment. I sleep and sit and dine, all in the same room, and it's more than enough space for me.

I think that the point of the Making Room exhibit is that we need to give people who require less space (i.e., a big chunk of the people living in and coming to NYC) the option to live in smaller conditions. The laws were set originally to eradicate slums and cater to families, but the times have changed. San Francisco is getting away with having micro-units of less than 200 sq. ft., I believe. NYC is very much walkable, and is very much a city where the apartment is a stop-over to your next destination, so it makes total sense to me to start allowing people to live smaller, in regulated, safe buildings.

Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner  
2/27/2013 4:13:02 PM
User Rank City Slicker
SROs?
Whatever happened to boarding houses and SRO hotels?

The latter -- SROs -- came into disrepute in the 1970s and 80s, synonymous with what used to be called "flophouses." But they used to be standard housing for single adults of all levels of wealth and social classes. They were a staple of old romantic comedy movies.

And you see boarding houses in old movies, particularly Westerns. 

Does a single person -- or even a childless couple -- need more than a room for sleeping and another for sitting? Do they need their own kitchen, particularly if they are one of the many people nowadays who rarely or never cook?

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
2/27/2013 11:37:38 AM
User Rank Staff
Re: Great Idea!!!
Hi @arv: I hadn't heard about "chawls" so thank you for the information!

Regarding cost savings, this is a tricky area, and I would argue that cost savings won't be the main attraction of micro-apartments. I truly feel the only ones that will end up being on the cheap side will be those that are designated as "affordable housing" by the city. Otherwise, I don't anticipate micro-units will be much cheaper than regular studios. In fact, considering most of these will be built in more modern buildings, and will provide balcony access, and perhaps have doormen, gyms, laundry rooms, etc., they may end up being even more expensive! When it comes to setting prices on real estate, at least in NYC, it's "not size that matters" all that much, as much as it is the neighborhood, the vicinity of the nearest transit, and the building accommodations.

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