Just room for two

New York is piloting its first block of micro-apartments to cater for a rising population of tiny households.

New York City has 1.8 million one- and two-person households, but only a million studio apartments and one-bedroom flats to accommodate them.

So the city is breaking its own zoning rules by giving the nod to a new type of apartment block: 55 tiny apartments measuring 250 to 370 sq ft in area, to be built in Manhattan using modular construction.

The maximum capacity for each unit is just two people.

In July last year New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a design competition for the project, earmarked for the site at 335 East 27th Street in the Kips Bay neighbourhood. The goal was to test the market for a new housing model.

The winning proposal, announced in January, was developed by nARCHITECTS in collaboration with Monadnock Development and the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation. Judges liked their design for light and airy units, featuring ceilings more than 3m high, and juliet balconies.

nARCHITECTS’ says the micro-units achieve affordability for low- and middle-income households without city financing in part through its use of modular design, which it says will shorten the project duration and be cheaper than conventional construction.

It is expected that the project will complete the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure in the fall with construction beginning at the end of 2013.

Launching the competition, called "adAPT NYC", in July, Mayor Bloomberg said he would waive zoning regulations at the City-owned site because New York’s housing codes have not kept up with its changing population: they currently do not allow an entire building of micro-units.

"Developing housing that matches how New Yorkers live today is critical to the City’s continued growth, future competitiveness and long-term economic success," he said. "People from all over the world want to live in New York City, and we must develop a new, scalable housing model that is safe, affordable and innovative to meet their needs."

Deputy mayor for health and human services, Linda I Gibbs, said: "From young graduates just starting out to older adults seeking to downsize, adAPT NYC will allow us to better meet the changing housing needs of New Yorkers by piloting apartments that are affordable, efficient, and in tune with New York lifestyles."

Proposals were to be judged on affordability, innovative design, and participants’ experience in developing housing in New York City.

"Show us something we haven’t seen before that is ingenious, sustainable, replicable and practical, and we will work with you to make it a reality," said the City’s Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner, Mathew Wambua. "We’re looking for creativity, affordability, imaginative design and responsiveness to the needs of real New Yorkers."

adAPT NYC is part of Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan, a multi-billion dollar initiative to finance the creation or preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing by the close of Fiscal Year 2014.

Similar initiatives are being seen in California. In November 2012, The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to give micro-apartments a try, approving legislation that would allow for the construction of hundreds of 220 sq ft residential units.

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