Bloomberg’s Shrink Ray Hits Again: NYC Mayor Seeking Designs For Teensy Tiny Apartments

For New Yorkers who already feel like they’re living in an expensive shoebox stacked into buildings with tons of other shoeboxes, it might come as no surprise that Mayor Mike Bloomberg is trying to downsize yet another part of city life. First it was sugary drinks, and now the mayor has launched a competition for plans to develop dozens of “micro-units.” In other words, teensy tiny apartments.

The competition is seeking designs in the hopes that these cozy living quarters won’t feel like actual shoeboxes. But at around 275 to 300 square feet, such cramped living quarters aren’t allowed under New York’s current city zoning laws, reports the Wall Street Journal. Apartments now must be at least 400 square feet for the most part.

But under Bloomberg’s pilot program, officials will waive regulations at a city-owned site in the Kip’s Bay neighborhood of Manhattan to test this micro-unit thing out.

There are currently 1.8 million households with only one or two people living in them, but only a million studio and one-bedroom apartments available, say city officials. That lack of housing has led to a lot of illegally subdivided apartments.

The winner of the competition will develop a building of around eight to 10 stories with about 80 of the micro-units. Officials say 20% of the units will be restricted to low-income residents, and the rest would rent for below the market value of $2,000 per month, per shoebox. Oops, per micro-unit.

Don’t worry about feeling claustrophobic though, as Bloomberg points out about the idea of the micro-unit: “This has windows. This has a separate bathroom.”

City seeks Lilliputian Living Units [Wall Street Journal]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Hi_Hello says:

    I wish there would be more micro-unit in the country. I only needed my apartment for sleep, poop, and shower.

  2. Murph1908 says:

    Corbin Dallas is a lock for this contest.

  3. George4478 says:

    That makes me think of the different-sized ‘living space’ displays in Ikea.

    • exit322 says:

      You and me both. I wouldn’t want to live in such a postage stamp, but it’s neat to see how Ikea makes it work.

  4. Cat says:

    Dresser drawers.

  5. Geekybiker says:

    • shepd says:

      Beat me to it. Also, “Alice Garden Pods” as featured in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which is based on those. :)

  6. fsnuffer says:

    This does not concern me too much but when Bloomberg starts pushing Soylent Green as a healthy food alternative then I will start to worry.

  7. cactus jack says:

    A community toilet/kitchen surrounded by coffin sized bedrooms.

  8. who? says:

    My brother lived in a 300 sqft shoebox in Manhattan for 18 years. It was actually pretty nice. It was just like any other normal pre-war apartment in NYC. High ceilings, big windows…except the bedroom was missing. He had to be very careful about accumulating things. When we gave him presents, it had to be something consumable, like tickets to a show or something, because he didn’t have room to keep anything. But otherwise, it was fine for a single guy. He had to give it up when he got into a relationship. It was just too damn small for two people.

    • Jevia says:

      I just can’t get over the cost, $2,000 a month for 300 sq.ft.? I had no idea NYC was that friggin expensive.

      • scoutermac says:

        that is about twice the cost of Chicago and about four times the cost of Indianapolis.

      • who? says:

        Bro wasn’t paying anywhere near $2k per month, he was under rent control. But I think if he were to move there today, his same apartment would probably go for somewhere between $1500 and $2000. It was in midtown Manhattan, close to everything, and other than the size thing, it was really quite nice.

        When they moved to Jersey City 3 years ago, they were paying $1800 for a 2 bedroom that was way the f*ck away from the Path station. He had to walk about a mile, then he had a 25 minute subway ride into the city, then another 10 minute walk to get to work. It took him at least an hour each way. Personally, I’d learn to downsize.

        • packy says:

          When I was living in Jersey City about three years ago, I was paying about that for a mile walk to the PATH. I was able to get my rent down to $1600 for a 3 bedroom in Bayonne, but it was an additional 20-minute bus ride to the PATH. Now I’m paying just over $2K for a small house out in Hackensack (who needs a house out in Hackensack? Apparently, I do) that’s a 30-minute bus ride into the city, then a mile walk to my office.

          It’s either the hour commute or living in a shoebox. Right now, I’m taking the commute.

          Personally, if these apartments were available for around $1500 when I moved to NYC, I’d have gotten one and kept my $700 two-bedroom apartment near Albany, NY, for the weekends.

        • chargernj says:

          I live in Jersey city currently and I wouldn’t call a mile “way the fuck away” from the PATH station. That’s actually sounds like a pretty good spot assuming it’s in a decent neighborhood.

          Also, what would $1800/month get you in Manhattan? JC beats NYC for housing value.

  9. Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

    Immediately thought of Bruce Willis’ micro-apartment in The Fifth Element.

  10. InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

    I don’t think i could ever give up enough of my books to make living in a micro-unit possible. I applaud the idea, I just don’t think I could do it.

    • who? says:

      By the time my brother moved out, he had about 1000 books in his “micro-unit.” His bookshelves went all the way up the ceiling, and he had one of those bookshelf/ladder contraptions. It was pretty awesome, really. Books, clothes, a futon couch, and a computer were pretty much the entirety of his possessions.

  11. RynanEmery says:

    Anyone else notice that the photo of the proposed living space is almost identical to a “shipping container” home?…which happens to be roughly 320 sq ft (8×40)…

  12. Not Given says:

  13. CrazyEyed says:

    $1,999 a month for a 300 sq ft apartment sounds fantastic


    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      The next step is a 50 person common room with a battery of hammocks and foot lockers for the low, low price of $999 per hammock per month. Whata deal!

      /Sorry, didn’t mean to give the mayor ideas…

  14. HalOfBorg says:

    When I delivered papers as a kid, one customer of mine lived in a house that was MAYBE 10Ft x 10Ft. I kid you not. Anywhere else it would have been a kid’s playhouse.

    1/2 of it was a bed, 1/4 a bathroom (I assume) and the other 1/4 open space.

    • iesika says:

      There are a lot of shotgun houses like this in the deep south. Before air conditioning became widely available (and cheap enough), no one was ever inside for long except in the winter.

  15. aerodawg says:

    “There are currently 1.8 million households with only one or two people living in them, but only a million studio and one-bedroom apartments available, say city officials. That lack of housing has led to a lot of illegally subdivided apartments.”

    And what pray tell has caused a lack of housing? You would think that if housing is that scarce, prices would go up either spurring investment in that area, driving out some of the people, or both. Could it possibly be that rent control and rent stabilization short circuit that process? Nah, couldn’t be. Has to be something totally unrelated causing under-supply….

    • Firethorn6 says:

      Don’t forget handicapped access rules forbidding said ‘micro apartments’ for the most part.

      Still, you can do a LOT in a small space if you’re willing to do the work –
      Gary Chang, 32sqm(340 sqft), he’s a aircraft designer by trade.

    • Torchwood says:

      Rent control…. can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

    • who? says:

      “And what pray tell has caused a lack of housing?”

      Lack of buildable land, primarily. Manhattan is an island. Anyplace that’s a reasonable commute to the places people work (and many places that *aren’t* a reasonable commute) have been more or less fully developed for generations. The places where developers can come in and increase the population density are limited, and very expensive, both in terms of land purchase price and building cost. Developers aren’t going to buy a bunch of really expensive land and build a really expensive building in order to cater to the low end of the market.

      In terms of development, rent control is a red herring. New development is exempt from rent control unless the owner opts in (in exchange for tax breaks). That said, rent control may have an effect on the number of lower priced units available, since rent control stops when the rent for an apartment reaches $2500.

  16. aloria says:

    If people would get over their insistence that they just *have* to live in Manhattan (or trendy BK neighborhoods,) shit like this would never fly.

    I have two places in the NYC area. I presently occupy a studio in Brooklyn, which is $1050/mo for 475 ft^2, and a 20 minute commute to work. I also have a condo across the river in New Jersey; mortgage and condo fees come to about $1800 for 900 ft^2, and a 50 minute commute to work.

    Honestly, the only difference between my and my Manhattan-dwelling friends’ lifestyles is that I’m spending a couple thousand grand less for a similar sized place. Our commutes are similar lengths, thanks to the joys of the MTA, and we all go out of our respective neighborhoods to drink and hang.

    Unless Queens and Brooklyn suddenly sink underwater, I’m really failing to see the allure of paying a couple grand a month for a glorified closet.

  17. dulcinea47 says:

    This really seems like it’s supposed to make people go, “OMG, 300 square feet, it’s tiny!”

    I lived in a couple of different apartments around that size for several years. (not in New York.) It’s small- you won’t be hosting any dinner parties. But it’s really fine for one person who doesn’t have a ton of stuff and doesn’t want to accumulate a ton of stuff- living in a small place is excellent for making you think before you bring anything home.

    • BorkBorkBork says:

      I’d love to have smaller apt options where I live. Even a studio I checked out was bigger than I needed. It’s just me, I don’t have a lot of stuff, and I just need a place to eat and put my head down at night.

      Smaller apts means you need to buy less stuff to fill it, less expensive to cool in the summer, etc. I’d love a 300 sq. ft. option here (Vegas).

    • aloria says:

      My place is a little bigger than 300 sq ft, but I agree with you about it not being that bad. It’s basically like living in a college dorm, only with your own kitchen and bathroom.

  18. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    $2k/month will get you a 5000 sq. ft. house in my area. But then you’d have to live next to all the hicks and rednecks, and people who moved here from CA and NY because they can get a 5000 sq. ft. house for $2k/month.

  19. kwjayhawk says:

    Pretty sure the Mayor lives in 12,500 foot townhome. Do as I say not as I do….

    • Firethorn6 says:

      Just because he enjoys a bigger space doesn’t mean that others wouldn’t appreciate cheaper, if smaller, living quarters.

      One thing I remember is that following handicap access laws cost so much that it’d of been far cheaper to put all the handicapped up in the most expensive handicapped-accessible apartments rather than try to make all of them accessible.

  20. Nobby says:

    France’s toll roads issue you a ticket when you first get on the road. Each exit has a booth where you stop, turn in your ticket, and pay a fee is based on how far you traveled. When I got to my exit I handed in my ticket.

    To my surprise, I was fined for speeding when they calculated how far I traveled. They knew I was speeding because I traveled 135 kms in a hour on a road that had a 110 km/hr limit. You see, each ticket is imprinted with the time it was issued. D’oh!!!!

  21. valleygirl_18002 says:

    So here’s the info regarding toll violations for the FL Turnpike:


    From my personal experience (I live the in the Central Florida area):
    The rumor has always been that you can run up to 3 tolls per month without instance. In addition, if you do receive a toll violation and it is an unmanned booth like the OP describes, you can easily fight it and win.

    When I moved to FL in ’06 I ran into a similar situation, and ended up running the toll as I didn’t have change. I never received a violation letter and was later informed by others (including a friend who works in law enforcement) about the 3-run “rule” as well as fighting violations at unmanned booths.

  22. PragmaticGuy says:

    Having been on many a cruise ship with cabins that are only about 175 sq. feet I think this is possible. Add the additional space for a small kitchen and it’s doable. Of course, there’s not a hell of a lot of room for entertaining but maybe the fire escape can be used as a balcony.

  23. Alex d'Indiana says:

    I love how New Yorkers think they have small apartments. When you say you have a small apartment in Paris, that means 14 square meters (150 square feet). 9 square meters is the limit per zoning law. I know a woman who lives in 8 square meters, though. I’m lucky that my partner and I have an apartment that’s officially for a family of 4, that is, 484 square feet.

  24. evilpete says:

    Heh, ever see those 230square foot IKEA “example” homes?

  25. Emily says:

    Oh good, because what New York needs is smaller apartments. He should be working to increase the base size, not reduce it. People shouldn’t be penned like cattle… they need a little space to breathe.

  26. triana says:

    I watched something about cheap hotels in Japan that basically give you the equivalent of a dog crate (or a coffin) to sleep in. These cubicle thingies are stacked on top of each other and the end result is a lot like a kennel.

    Hopefully NYC won’t take it any farther and resort to that.

  27. Libertas1 says:

    Some of the prison cells where I work are not much smaller than these proposed apartments.

    Michelle Bloomberg strikes me as the type that would enjoy the side benefits to that sort of lifestyle.

  28. frodolives35 says:

    How the hell do people afford to live in NY. Over $2000 per month every where.
    Wow if the average cab driver makes about $15 an hour how do people survive. 4 families per 400 sq ft apt?

  29. Mephron says:

    Then you get stuff like this:

    And some of the place linked on that channel, with people having micro-places and doing a lot of building to make it work.

  30. Kestris says:

    Shipping containers. Hey, if they can build student housing and apartment buildings with them in Europe and Japan, why not here too.