Albrecht is curator of Making Room, an exhibition that looks at ways to fix the city’s housing shortage.
Sarah Watson, the Citizens Housing and Planning Council’s deputy director, says over the years, city policy has exacerbated the housing shortage. In the 1950s and ’60s, New York was anxious to keep stable families from fleeing to the suburbs, so it shut down a lot of the single-room occupancy hotels and apartment hotels.
“The laws and codes began to really encourage a very standard kind of two-bedroom, three-bedroom floor plan that would support a family, with an idea that if we create regulations that make this sort of home be constructed,” she says, “whether it was a single-family home or an apartment, we’ll maintain those families in the city.”
The rules said apartments had to be at least 400 square feet, and no more than three unrelated people could live together. Watson says these regulations discouraged the construction of the kind of housing that’s really needed by today’s residents many of whom are young and single. This in turn created a vast Craigslist culture of shared apartments and illegal rentals.
Watson says the museum exhibition looks at what can be done to correct this.
“Our approach was actually looking at how government policy and how regulations can better support how people are really living than trying to enforce an idea of how they should,” she says.
Read more in NPR.