Affordable housing advocates differ on micro-apartment policy

New York’s luxury micro units could be first step to developing affordable units.

March 23, 2016 |
Affordable housing advocates differ on micro-apartment policy

Photo: designmilk/Creative Commons.

New York City has granted waivers to its building codes on some projects to foster the development of micro apartments.

An impetus for this action was to create more housing in a city that has a shortage of affordable units, but the first projects to construct tiny apartments have been oriented to a higher-income clientele. One such building comes with custom-made furniture, a weekly cleaning service, and an app-based “butler” that can arrange dry cleaning and grocery pick up services.

Such high-end developments may lay the ground work for affordable micro-apartment projects by alleviating the stigma associated with tiny living units, some housing experts point out. Some New Yorkers associate micro-apartments with the cramped tenements of the past. But successful luxury projects could provide proof-of-concept for affordable micro-apartments, boosters say.

Critics point out that that a 300 sf unit may be fine for single people, but many of those in need of affordable housing are families that need more space. New York’s City Council is considering a measure to allow micro-apartments to be constructed within affordable housing complexes with conventionally sized units.

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