To create more affordable housing for the city's growing population of 1-2 person households, Mayor Bloomberg plans to waive certain zoning regulations at a city-owned building at 335 East 27th Street in the Kip's Bay neighborhood to test the market for a new housing model. The city's "adAPT NYC" pilot program will create 55 new micro-units "designed to optimize space and maximize the sense of openness," ranging in size between 250 and 370 square feet. (They make this 420-square-feet "transformer" apartment seen downright palatial!) And judging by the renderings, some even come with a scary old man's disembodied head, at no extra cost:

old man ghost

In addition to the ghosts chalk drawings, ‘My Micro NY’ will be the first multi-unit building in Manhattan developed using modular construction, with the modules prefabricated locally by Capsys at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The units boast 9’-10” floor-to-ceiling heights and Juliette balconies, and 40 percent of the units will be "affordable beyond the competitive market rents," ranging between $914 a month to $1,873 a month. The winning design is a collaboration between Monadnock, nARCHITECTS and the Actors Fund HDC, and their building will feature:

A multi-purpose and transparently-glazed space on the ground floor will be programed for rehearsals, performances, lectures and other creative activities, in addition to a café. Inside, the efficient apartment design includes ample storage, such as a 16’-long overhead loft space and a full-depth closet. Compact kitchens contain a full-height pull-out pantry, a full-height fridge, range, and space for a convection microwave.

The property will include amenities that invite resident interaction, such as an attic garden, a ground-floor porch with picnic tables, den areas, and a multi-purpose lounge. Programmed interior space comprises 18 percent of the building’s gross square footage. The building will also have a laundry room, residential storage, a bike room, and fitness space.

While the variation in unit sizes and configuration is efficiently limited, minor shifts in the building’s volume, and changes in orientation of units, and location and type of windows generate spatial diversity. Each unit is comprised of two distinct zones: a ‘toolbox’ containing a kitchen, bathroom and storage and a ‘canvas’ providing ample, well-proportioned flexible space allowing for individual expression, and serving as the primary living and sleeping area.

If successful, the pilot program could lead to more zoning waivers to encourage the development of tiny single dwelling homes. According to the Daily News, there are 1 million studios and one-bedroom apartments in NYC, compared to 1.8 million one- and two-person households. Because of zoning regulations, most new apartments built in NYC must be at least 400 square feet.

Renderings of the winning design and the other submissions are now on view at the Museum of the City of New York. The exhibit, called Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers, features an array of designs intended to accommodate New York's changing demographics, including a full-scale model micro apartment. It's not the winning design but it does give you a palpable sense of how these micro-units utilize small spaces—the modular space will be reconfigured several times a day. Unveiling the winning design today, Bloomberg pointed out that "the growth rate for one- and two-person households greatly exceeds that of households with three or more people, and addressing that housing challenge requires us to think creatively and beyond our current regulations."

Indeed, the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, a non-profit research organization that collaborated with the Museum of the City of New York on the exhibit, explains how New York City zoning laws have failed to keep up with the times:

Only 18 percent of the city’s housing is occupied by a nuclear family, defined as two parents and children under age 25. With half of the population single, many live alone. The rest are staying with family for longer or sharing with unrelated adults in a variety of informal, and often illegal and unsafe, arrangements.

Meanwhile, small apartments (less than 400 square feet) are prohibited in many areas of the city, and it remains illegal for more than three unrelated adults living together. As a result, single-parent families, immigrants, the elderly, and recent graduates, among other groups, struggle to adapt themselves to housing designed for a previous generation.

Part of the reason for the mismatch between how New Yorkers live now and the legal housing options available to them is the accretion of housing laws and codes developed in the 20th century. These laws and codes were championed by housing reformers responding to pressing conditions of their era, but they have not kept up with the technological, demographic, environmental or cultural trends in urban residential living.

Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers will be on view to the general public at the Museum of the City of New York starting tomorrow all the way through September 15th.