The Citizens Housing & Planning Council supports the application of HPD’s winning AdAPT RFP submission.
Our work on this issue resulted not from a preconceived idea to advance the creation of small apartments, but rather resulted from a simple question: As our population grows how will it be accommodated into a housing stock with a historically low vacancy rate?
To answer this question it was important to look at the shape and nature of our households –
- fully one third (33%) of our housing units are occupied by a single person living alone (in Manhattan that number is 46% and in CB #6 it is 59%);
- 17% are occupied by a family with at least one additional adult over the age of 25;
- 6% are occupied by single adults who admit to sharing;
- 26% are either couples or single parents;
- and 17% are occupied by nuclear families.
Looked at another way 56% of our housing units are occupied by single persons who are either living alone or sharing with others.
One need only look on Craig’s list to see the results of this population shift which reveals the informal housing market that most new entrants into the housing marketplace must turn to.
CHPC’s Making Room initiative is specifically focused on three housing types for the New York City marketplace which will provide more housing choice for those in the informal housing market:
1. Small, efficient studios designed for single person households;
2. Legal shared housing options for unrelated adults;
3. Accessory units to make a single family home more flexible for extended families or additional renters.
We developed a unique data model and methodology that revealed a substantial mismatch between the types of housing units available in New York City and the shape of our 21st century households. Our diverse households are trying to fit themselves into homes and apartments not designed for their needs. And our housing is unable to evolve because the size, shape, and even occupancy requirements of our homes are governed by old-fashioned laws and codes.
In 2009, we hosted an international design symposium to acquaint a New York City audience with housing design innovation occurring all around the world that is responding to the needs of the growing single population, changing demographics, and booming cities.
In 2011, CHPC partnered with the Architectural League of NY to commission five architectural teams to take on a unique challenge: design an array of accommodating, desirable, safe living units for singles, shared households, and extended families, without the current restrictions of certain housing regulations, including minimum unit size, density calculations, and occupancy standards. The designs were presented at a showcase event at the Japan Society of New York.
This work became the basis for Making Room exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York which attracted more than 120,000 visitors.
We were encouraged by the Administration’s innovative AdAPT RFP which provided regulatory relief that would allow small units and greater density which attracted worldwide interest and tapped into the unmet need for housing for single people. What was clear from the submissions is that single adults, like everyone else, are seeking not just a place to live but to become part of a community that is shared. This trend is evidenced in the recent work of NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo, which reaffirms that this trend is national, growing, and reveals a population seeking civic engagement and community connection, not a diminished public life.
In addition we were encouraged by the positive response from environmental advocates who have recognized that living in small or shared spaces, especially when paired with mass transit are the greenest contributions that we can make to the environment.
And we look forward to the new efforts spearheaded by organizations working in our city’s new immigrant communities to enact regulatory reform that will permit a path to legalization for basement/cellar apartments through the creation of accessory dwelling units.
We believe that regulatory relief to encourage smaller units, denser buildings, units that can be legally shared by single adults, and permit accessory dwelling units in small homes will help to eradicate the informal housing market and provide more housing choice for all New Yorkers.
Note: All data is based on 2011 American Community Survey with a model by CHPC to identify single persons over the age of 25