If you've ever lived in Manhattan, as I have, you've undoubtedly experienced it -- the insanely small apartment. Residents of Gotham brag about paying ridiculous rents for apartments the size of a walk-in closet, and routinely crack jokes about storing winter sweaters in the oven and keeping a goldfish because there's no room for a parakeet.
Ha, ha, ha.
It appears that tightly squeezed New Yorkers' stale jokes and cries of discontent have been heard by -- of all people -- a famous billionaire named Michael Bloomberg. As mayor of New York City, Bloomberg has initiated some schemes so progressive they're almost wacky, like tackling obesity by outlawing super-sized soft drinks, and encouraging the creation of more bike lanes. (What is this guy, nuts?)
And now, Hizzoner is promoting a housing development smack-dab in the middle of Manhattan that would comprise 55 pre-fabricated micro-apartments as small as 250 square feet, which is roughly the size of Bloomberg's limousine. The largest apartments in the development will be 375 square feet, and because almost half of these apartments are intended for low- and middle-income residents, the monthly rents will be stabilized between $914 and $1,873, according to The New York Times.
For comparison's sake -- and comic relief -- consider the fact that the average monthly rent for a studio apartment in Manhattan is $2,000, and the average one-bedroom goes for $2,700. Yeah, ouch.
Say what you will about a micro-apartment, each one has amenities that set city dwellers' hearts aflutter. First of all, the designers of the units, nARCHITECTS, have created airy, bright spaces with 10-foot ceilings and a spacious feel that belies their small footprint. In addition to built-in dishwashers, tall picture windows and built-in bookshelves, they'll also feature that holy grail of urban apartment hunters, a small outdoor space, a.k.a. a "Juliet balcony" (elsewhere known as "where we go to smoke").
And the building itself is no slouch, either -- with a gymnasium, a roof garden and a communal lounge, it's sure to appeal to city slickers of all ages.
Is affordable housing in New York City really such an endangered species? Yes, it is: "We have a shortfall now of 800,000 [rental units], and it's only going to get worse," Bloomberg said during the press conference announcing the development. "This is going to be a big problem for cities with young people." He neglected to mention that it's actually going a big problem for cities with living people.
"We've chosen Manhattan because more than three-quarters of its homes are one or two person households," said Bloomberg, as quoted in the New York magazine. "We already have the population seeking housing for a small number of people, we just don’t have the apartments to house them."
The micro-apartment development is part of the burgeoning "tiny house" movement that's catching fire worldwide. It seems that after a generation of building huge -- and hugely ugly -- McMansions that waste space as badly as they waste energy, people have had enough of the inglorious wrecks.
Instead, some of the world's most talented green architects and designers are creating remarkably clever living spaces that are the size of a hotel room -- a cheap, little hotel room. But instead of being confining, residents of these mini-houses consistently describe them as liberating. Uplifting, even.
And all these spaces, from micro-apartments to mini-houses, have green credentials that are essentially bullet-proof. Energy use is a fraction of that consumed by a larger home. Pre-fabrication of these units reduces waste materials on-site and speeds construction time. And the sheer volume of crap and tchotchkes and dust-collectors that can't be put into a mini-apartment or small house make them a hoarding consumer's worst nightmare -- and a greenie's dream come true.