CBC News

New York turns to micro apartments to solve city’s big housing problem

Canadian-designed building features units no bigger than 360 square feet

In a city of big dreams and an ever-growing population trying to squeeze into a tight space, New York is hoping the solution to its housing problems is to go small — micro, in fact.

This spring marks the opening of Carmel Place, the city’s first apartment building made up entirely of micro apartments. Ranging in size from 260 to 360 square feet, the units were built to find space for the growing number of single-person households moving to the city.


A look inside a 302-square-foot unit at Carmel Place, New York’s first building composed entirely of micro apartments. (Monodnock Development)

On a recent tour of the new building, Bunge showed off one of the mid-size micro apartments, measuring 302 square feet. With nearly 10-foot ceilings, a Juliet balcony and clean, modern furnishings, he said the goal is to make the space feel larger than it is.

“We want to design humane apartments that may be small in footprints, but larger in every other sense,” Bunge said.

New York’s current housing stock, he said, is aimed at families, which make up less than 20 per cent of the city’s population. That means two- or three-bedroom apartments get subdivided among single residents, driving up the rent.

Tobias Oriwol is another Canadian involved in the project, working with Monadnock Development at the time. He said creative design allows them to fit more into the small space.

‘We want to design humane apartments that may be small in footprints, but larger in every other sense.’– Eric Bunge, of nARCHITECTS

He demonstrated how the bed folds down from the wall over the couch and coffee table, the latter of which can convert to a high top for meals. The desk in the kitchen expands to become a kitchen table and the clothing rod in the closet pulls out to create more storage space.

“This is 300 usable square feet compared to units of similar size that aren’t as efficient,” Oriwol said.

The building also offers a number of amenities to entice renters, he said, including a gym, shared dining room and internet. Some apartments even come with a package that includes a concierge who restocks the fridge.


Carmel Place was built using modular construction: Each unit was pre-fabricated and then assembled in place in Manhattan’s Kips Bay neighbourhood. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

Micro apartments have been growing in popularity across the U.S., with developments in cities like Boston and San Francisco, though size and price differ in each municipality.

As part of New York’s plan, 14 of the 55 units are designated for low-income earners and rent will be subsidized. Another eight units will be reserved for previously homeless veterans. They received 60,000 applications for the affordable units, Oriwol said.

As for the other market-rate units, he said a typical 302-square-feet unit, furnished with weekly cleaning, internet, cable and concierge service, is listed at $2,750 US a month — in line with the city’s other new-construction units.

So far Carmel Place is a one-off project, but both Bunge and Oriwol hope the building will be a model for developers and the city.

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