New York City tests out micro-apartments

They might be the urban dwelling of the future: Studio apartments measuring no more than 28 sq m.

New York City planners believe the tiny units could be the answer to a growing population of singles and two-person households. And in a nation that is increasingly populous and urbanised – where people are more frequently creating a family of one – such downsizing may not stop here.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday invited developers to propose ways to turn a Manhattan lot into an apartment building filled mostly with what officials are calling “micro-units” – dwellings complete with a bathroom, built-in kitchenette and enough space to use a fold-out bed as both sleeping space and living room.

If the pilot programme is successful, officials could ultimately overturn a requirement established in 1987 that new apartments in New York be at least 400 sq ft (37.2 sq m).

City planners envision a future in which the young, the cash-poor and empty nesters flock to such tiny dwellings. In a real estate market where about one-third of renters spend more than half their income on rent, it could make housing more affordable.

Manhattan is the United States capital of solo living, with 46.3 per cent of households consisting of one person, according to the 2010 census.

City officials estimate 76 per cent of residents on the island live alone or with one other person, and such households are growing faster than any other type of living situation. This trend is attributed, in part, to young professionals delaying both marriage and childbearing.

Paying New York City rents can be a challenge and officials hope smaller apartments can help ease the burden on residents facing average rents of US$2,000 (S$2,535) per month for a studio and US$2,700 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.

In New York City, where long working hours can leave little time for home life, renters often sacrifice square footage to save money. The size of apartments in the city have been lampooned on television, with at least one sitcom showing characters living – literally – in a closet.

Source : Today – 11 Jul 2012

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