Leasing Begins for New York’s First Micro-Apartments
The development, previously called My Micro NY, has tapped into a desire common among many singles to live alone. The building includes 14 units designated as affordable, for which some 60,000 people applied, or nearly 4,300 applicants per apartment. The lottery for these units was held earlier this month, and winners will be informed in January. The building is set to open on Feb. 1.
“It shows the need that people feel for affordable, private space in the city,” said Tobias Oriwol, a project developer for Monadnock Development, of the number of applicants. Monadnock is developing the building with the Lower East Side People’s Mutual Housing Association. Most of the affordable apartments will rent for $950 a month to tenants who meet income restrictions, less than half of what will be charged for market-rate apartments.
The development is the product of a 2012 design competition intended to address one of the city’s more vexing housing problems: How do you build safe, legal and reasonably priced apartments for single New Yorkers who do not want to double — or triple — up with roommates?
Carmel Place answers that question with studios that were prefabricated in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, delivered by truck over the Manhattan Bridge and assembled on site in Kips Bay. Kitchenettes are outfitted with mini-refrigerators, two-burner electric stovetops and microwaves in lieu of ovens. Bathrooms are large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, but have stall showers instead of bathtubs.
Renters will pay a premium for a furnished unit. For example, a furnished 355-square-foot apartment on the second floor is listed at $2,910, while an unfurnished 360-square foot unit on the same floor is listed for $2,750 — a $160-a-month discount. The lowest-priced unit listed, at $2,540, is a furnished 265-square foot studio on the third floor. The remaining market-rate units, including a 323-square-foot studio on the eighth floor, with a 268-square-foot terrace, will become available over the next few weeks, and priced based on how quickly the first apartments rent, according to a spokeswoman for the developer.
Small apartments are not new to New York. Thousands of apartments that predate the city’s 1987 zoning restrictions would be considered micro units by today’s standards. In Manhattan, some 3,000 apartments measure less than 400 square feet, according to Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the Miller Samuel real estate appraisal firm. Many of them are tucked away in prewar buildings, some converted from hotels or rooming houses.
The smallest units at Carmel Place are about half the size of an average studio in Manhattan, which was 550 square feet in October, according to a report by Douglas Elliman. The median rent during the same period was $2,555, about the starting rent at Carmel Place. So renters will be paying considerably more rent per square foot for these micro units. But for some renters it might not matter — their rent check is about the same, even if the size of the space is smaller.
“It’s like buying a Prius, it’s a niche,” Mr. Miller said. “This is one of those things that the market will determine ultimately whether or not they’re accepted.”
“There is this idea that bigger is better, and that we need housing for families,” said Sarah Watson, the deputy director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council and manager of its Making Room initiative, which ultimately led to the city’s micro-unit competition. “But people change, lifestyle changes, technology changes and the housing needs to change.”
The micro units’ design, by nArchitects, tries to resolve the potential for claustrophobia with ceilings that are more than nine feet tall and sliding glass doors that open onto Juliet balconies. The building also provides communal space, including a gym, two lounges and an outdoor courtyard. A lounge in the cellar will have a pool table and a television, and the eighth-floor lounge will open onto a shared roof deck with a barbecue. “People don’t want to be limited by the size of their apartment,” Mr. Oriwol said.
A communal lounge might make tight living quarters more tolerable, but it does not make it any easier to squeeze a bed (and maybe a table and chair, too) into a tiny space. For that, Monadnock enlisted Stage 3 Properties to offer a brand of furnishings and services that it calls Common. The 17 market-rate apartments are furnished by Common with pieces distributed by Resource Furniture. Among them is a sofa designed by the Italian manufacturer Clei that allows a tenant to take off the cushions and pull down a bed from the wall, transforming a living room into a bedroom. A white lacquer desk can be extended into a dining table that seats 10. Tenants who are unsure about how to decorate such a small space can buy an Common Box, an assortment of décor options like throw pillows, rugs and table lamps.
“The market has already decided that space is just one attribute that renters consider when they’re looking for housing,” said Christopher Bledsoe, a founding partner of Stage 3 Properties. Other attributes like housekeeping and free Wi-Fi, he said, might convince some renters to pay more for less room.