The Rise of Single People Hurts Affordable Housing

April 21, 2015

NYC’s affordable housing crisis makes headlines daily, but while most are quick to point to the exploitation and mismanagement of existing apartments as the root of the cause (which to a great degree it most certainly is), the Washington Posts asks us to consider the effect single folks have on a city’s housing inventory.

Today, more and more folks are living longer and marrying later (if at all), and living alone at any given age no longer carries the stigma it once did decades ago. 26 percent of modern American households consist of just one person now, compared to the 1940s when this number topped out at just seven percent. While this dynamic shift seems more like a cause for celebration (yay, we’re evolving and defying convention) it does have some serious implications when it comes to available housing. “Our housing stock wasn’t built for a society full of singles,” says reporter Emily Badger.

percentage of americans that live aloneGraph via Washington Post

“Our communities instead are full of homes meant for the traditional nuclear family,” she adds, “two-bedroom starter homes, three-bedroom houses, apartments with more bathrooms than a singleton needs, full-service kitchens when 25-year-old bachelors now primarily dine by microwave. We’re increasingly a nation of single people, but we’re still living, quite literally, in a world built for families.”

New York in specific boasts a population where more than half of its adults are single (2010).“This shift in household composition suggests that there is likely a demand for smaller, more affordable units,” said Jessica Yager, Policy Director at the NYU Furman Center. And there is.

As we’ve reported previously, more and more folks are turning to shared situations or renting out apartments beyond their needs and means because of a lack of available studios or smaller, more efficient apartments. The demand for small units is most definitely up and when you pair these factors with a very difficult to enter buyer’s market, you’ve got a logjam for smaller apartments that causes rents to rise.

NYCHPD, Monadnock, My Micro NY, Micro-Apartments, Earth Day, nArchitects, modular construction

Badger suggests that one way to hep smooth over the issue is to change the law to allow for more micro units similar to those seen in the housing experiment MY Micro NY. As it stands, the city’s minimum legal apartment size is 400 square feet, whereas the MY Micro’s mini pads will range between 260 to 360 square feet. This slight size adjustment alone could pave the way for many other, much more appropriately sized units that would better fit the need of today’s single—or from a bigger picture vantage, our built environment would actually reflect today’s demographics and social norms. Moreover, by coupling this housing model with the right changes to allow for more density and height, as well as affordability, and the city could be far more accessible to existing and future New Yorkers.

[Via Washington Post]


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