Jerilyn Perine, executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council (CHPC) and former Housing Commissioner for Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, has been thinking about the problem for some time. In 2011, CHPC launched an initiative called Making Room to engage architects from all over the world in troubleshooting citys limited housing market. That project had considerable influence on the citys new micro-unit proposal.

“The housing market cant possibly keep up with the population growth were projecting,” said Perine, who added, “This idea that adding to the housing supply by continually adding housing for families doesnt address the underlying needs. This need is increasingly finding its way onto the underground housing market.”

By underground, she means illegally converted lofts and basements where people everyone from immigrant workers to young creatives to multiple families living together seeking affordable housing might dwell. Just like any black market, the illegal conversion market is highly unregulated, and the apartments are often fire traps that have in some casesresulted in terrible tragedies.

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