NYC's Micro Units Change the Housing Game for Singles Will Micro Condos Be Next?

(Photo courtesy of nARCHITECTS)

Carmel Place, New York City’s first all-micro-unit building, will open in March at 335 East 27th Street. The development started as a pilot program in 2013 under the Bloomberg administration, essentially a call to architects to solve the unmet demand for studio space in Manhattan.

Even in New York City, where distinguishing a bedroom from a closet can be a challenge, the idea of a studio apartment as small as 265 square feet is jarring. But, news from the city that 60,000 people have applied for Carmel Place’s 14 below-market-rate units has silenced the skeptics. The 32 apartments that will hit the market will rent for $2,650 and $3,150, no chump change. 

The enthusiastic response from renters begs the question: does the appeal of studios, regardless of size, transcend renters and encroach into the condo buyers’ market? Donna Olshan, president of Olshan Realty, believes it’s not crazy to think that micro units could become a factor in the first-time buyers’ market. New York’s younger professionals could opt to buy alone rather than hold out for a larger place with a spouse. “It’s also a good alternative for affluent parents looking for a place to buy for their college-aged student in lieu of a dorm room. It can also serve as a pied-a-terre as an alternative to a hotel room. The trick is to deliver a nice, small room with very good amenities, ensuring there is both a place to work and hang out. Done right, this thing will sell,” says Olshan.

Going Solo

With demand for solo residences high and buyers increasingly willing to compromise on space in exchange for privacy, it seems possible that smaller spaces could both maximize the number of units and profits for condo developers. “Land prices have tripled in many neighborhoods, squeezing profit margins and cost overrun margins for developers, while Mayor de Blasio has been much more circumspect about providing zoning variances for extra square footage,” explains Snezan Cebic, a broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate.


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  • These apartments are find but what about the single person who cannot afford the $2,650 and $3,150 a month rent. I ask because being single I can only afford between $ 1,000 and $ 1,225 for a monthly rent. What am I to do and where do I live? Answer that if you can, because it is being harder and harder for people like me and for senior citizen on a fixed income to find apartments. I say this because now the only apartments available are "luxury" one. Can someone tell people like me what we are to do? I know that it something happens I will become a member of the "homeless" in NYC. can you help me.
  • 2650 starting? These are clearly not what Bloomberg intended in terms of cost (yes size). They may be studios but a on a sq foot basis they are luxury spots. For the model to work the city has to all ow smaller units (noted 300-450 sq ft), they have to make a lot of them (why do it for a few dozen), they have to be very very affordable (sub 1K), and there has to be a way for the developer to be incentivized (read: profitable) to do it. That is the only way.