Ah, the Flophouse—the sink of sin, the graveyard of virtue, the haunt of the degenerate and the roost of the bandit. And also a great way to save money. The Jacob Riis photo at left documents what was called "Five Cent Lodging" on Bayard Street. Try finding something similar in Chinatown now. SRO numbers have been trending downward historically. But we're told that the Single Room Occupancy or Rooming House format—the modern code for flophouse—may have a future yet.

How do you know if one of these has moved to your neighborhood? On West 132nd Street, "Neighbors became alarmed when they noticed 16 toilets being delivered to the house," as the Times reports. They complained, but to no avail: city zoning laws permit old flophouses to be restored to their former purposes.

There are clearly advantages to tenants of such a system: in another article the Times tells us there are people living on the Upper East Side for ten bucks a night (and check out the wall of that guys' room!). Another describes herself as "lucky" to be paying $800 a month for a SRO room in the same neighborhood, though she described the shared bathrooms as "creepy." But seemingly the biggest advantage is for the building owners. Government housing subsidies will pay $930 for individual units, and $1500 for one-bedrooms.