Proposals About New Microapartments Highlight Benefits and Drawbacks

East, West
Monday, August 6, 2012
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Planning commissioner Amanda Burden, Mayor Bloomberg, and HPD Commissioner Wambua stand in a spatially accurate visualization of a possible Micro-Apartment layout for New York City’s Kips Bay competition. (Courtesy of NYC Mayor’s Office)

Take a minute to imagine what you would do if you had to cram your life into 270 square feet. In a typical ranch-style home, 270 could be a master bedroom, or a small living room, or a one-car garage. Now how about 220 square feet? It might make a shed or a bedroom. Now imagine this 15 by 18 foot or 15 by 15 foot space as your home.

Though it might sound more like another Ikea advertisement, two high-rent cities—New York and San Francisco—have been playing with the concept of permitting very small “micro-apartments” to alleviate high rents. By creating smaller housing, the idea goes, prospective renters will have a less expensive option and the city will be able to increase the density of residential units without increasing building size, always a contested point in neighborhood planning.

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