Developers are putting the final touches on the city’s first modular residential building with 55 micro-apartments and say that when it opens in Manhattan’s Kips Bay neighborhood in March, it will change how New Yorkers think about living small.
The studio apartments, which range from 260 square feet to 360 square feet — half the size of a subway car or less — look tiny on paper. But Tobias Oriwol, the project developer for Carmel Place, said the designers worked long and hard to make them feel comfortable and cozy.
Every unit includes nine-and-a-half foot ceilings, a full bathroom and a kitchen with modern appliances — albeit in a smaller scale with touches such as a mini-fridge and two-burner electric stove. Seventeen come with furnishings made to maximize every inch, such as a queen-size Murphy bed that easily folds over a love seat attached to the wall.
“It’s a normal apartment,” Oriwol said.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg first announced the micro unit pilot program in 2012 as a way to tackle New York’s housing crisis. Current city laws prohibit constructing homes smaller than 400 square feet, but the city waived the regulation for Carmel Place to test the viability of smaller apartments.
Sarah Watson, the deputy director of the non-profit group Citizen Housing & Planning Council, said the singles population has been on the rise and accounts for half of all renters. Many of them are already living in smaller spaces with multiple roommates, she said.
“There aren’t that many options for single people,” she added.
Mayor Bill de Blasio also supports the project and has pushed for a change to the city’s zoning laws to lower the minimum space requirements.
Pricing for the micro units, located at East 27th Street between First and Second avenues, was a key issue and Oriwol said there are rent brackets for tenants with a range of incomes.
Fourteen affordable units that rent between $949 and $1,490 a month are set aside for eligible applicants with modest means who entered a lottery through the city back in November.
Eight will given to homeless veterans as part of the federal government’s voucher program.
Thirty-two market-rate units will go between $2,550 and $3,150 a month, depending on the size and amenities. The rent for those apartments includes cable TV and Internet and a service called Ollie that provides housekeeping and concierge services.
The furnished apartments come with adaptable furniture for a small space, such as a desk that can expand to a 10-seat dining table. The units for veterans will get furnishings and Ollie donated.
Oriwol said demand for the affordable units was high, with 60,000 applicants signing up for the lottery. The winners will be determined at the end of the month.
Watson admitted that the micro unit building served as a “a teeny contribution” to fighting the larger housing crisis.
“It’s certainly not for everyone, but for certain lifestyles, it’s a very viable option,” she said.