Price-wise, the news for NYC rental apartments dwellers and seekers continues to be bad. Sure, the average cost of a Manhattan rental apartment remained “steady” for much of the summer, and there was a nice 32% jump in inventory in July, which could persuade landlords to return to the days of concessions (for example, one month free on a two-year lease, which used to be fairly common).
But Brooklyn rental apartments continue to go nowhere but up (the average one-bedroom in the Borough of Kings will now cost you more than $2,400 a month!), and non-doorman Manhattan rental apartments are becoming less of a “bargain”; although still considerably cheaper than their doorman counterparts, these days the “mean margin” difference in studios between the two is only about 15% (of course, non-doorman rental apartment residents might really appreciate the difference come holiday time, when they don’t have to hand out hundreds of dollars in tip money).
In fact, the Village Voice reported this month on City Comptroller John Liu’s depressing finding that 30% of NYC rental apartment dwellers now spend MORE THAN HALF of their income on rent. And 50% of us are paying “unaffordable rents”, which, as defined by the federal government, means anything more than 30% of your salary.
So if this is the problem for NYC rental apartment hunters, what’s the solution? Enter the NYC micro apartment rental. Earlier this summer Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Department of Housing announced an international competition asking design firms and architects to create livable–or, better yet, pleasant and comfortable–micro apartments of no more than 275 and 300 square feet.
The first 50 NYC micro-unit rentals would be constructed using the winning design on a city-owned lot in Murray Hill, put on the market at a to-be-determined price and, presumably, if all goes well, many, many more would follow. And by many I mean in the tens (hundreds?) of thousands. After all, as reported in the New York Times, right now NYC has 1.8 million one- and two-person households, but scarcely half the available housing is sized appropriately, with only one million studios and one-bedroom apartments. And the demand for such housing is only going to increase: in less than twenty years the city’s population is expected to grow by some 900,000, most of whom will not be in traditional nuclear families. Facing the same reality, several other cities are following New York’s micro-apartment lead, including San Francisco, with the rendering of a 300-square-footer above.
Anyway, the response to Bloomberg’s challenge for NYC micro apartments has been phenomenal, with 33 developers submitting applications, more than three times the usual amount, according to the Wall Street Journal, with the winner expected to be announced early next year, when, presumably, given the obvious enthusiasm for the concept, construction will begin almost immediately.
The biggest question as to whether the micro apartment concept will really solve anything is the price. I can easily imagine these units going too far into luxury-market territory, and becoming trendy pied-à-terres and such, which would defeat the purpose of the initiative. But if they can keep the price at $1000 a month or less, and put them in all sorts of neighborhoods, it could be huge for the NYC rental apartment residents, and a terrific way to promote economic diversity in the city as a whole, especially in Manhattan.
And in case you think no one could ever possibly function in such a tiny space, the Times profiles several residents recently who live quite happily in even smaller homes, including a 225-square-foot studio (above) in Midtown, and 200-square-footer (top) on the Upper West Side!