by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
In a recent article on Yahoo’s newspage, Bloomberg apparently is underwriting some sort of study to persuade developers come up with homes less than 425 square feet in size, actually going down to as small as 325 square feet.
How stupid can you get!! If they do develop tiny apartments, make sure that Mike Bloomberg and those asinine planners have to live in them too. With all the warehousing of buildings; with the overpricing of rentals and purchases, those are the things they need to be addressing, not shortchanging New Yorkers with boxes instead of homes. Tell Bloomies developer cronies to get up off the properties they are holding – that’s the answer to 99% of the housing problem in New York; the other side of the coin are landlords who want half your soul to live in them; and are asking for criteria that eliminates more than half of the eligible renters in the city; and a bogus rent guidelines board that is more intent in lining their pockets than providing decent, safe affordable homes for their tenants. They increase the rent and lower the standards and services. Make Bloomberg live in a 400 square foot home for a year. If he does it, then perhaps the rest of the city will consider it.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in collaboration with Amanda Burden, Department of City Planning Director, and Commissioner Mathew Wambua, Department of Housing Preservation and Development were shown standing in the kitchenette area of a full-scale mockup of a 300 square foot apartment. The city is asking developers to propose ways to build such tiny units in the hopes of changing city code to accommodate cash-strapped singles and couples.
The article starts out innocently enough. Written by Associated Press‘ Samantha Gross, the headlines read that Bloomberg was requesting (coercing?) developers come up with smaller apartments instead of the regular full sized, good quality apartments New York was once known for.
“Maybe it’s the urban dwelling of the future: studio apartments measuring no more than 300 square feet. New York City planners believe the tiny units could be the answer to a growing population of singles and two-person households. And in a nation that’s becoming increasingly populous and increasingly urbanized — and where people more frequently are creating a family of one — such downsizing may not stop here.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday invited developers to propose ways to turn a Manhattan lot into an apartment building filled mostly with what officials are calling “micro-units” — dwellings complete with a bathroom, built-in kitchenette and enough space for a careful planner to use a fold-out bed as both sleeping space and living room. (just barely bigger than a coffin for two)
If the pilot program is successful, officials could ultimately overturn a requirement established in 1987 that new apartments here be at least 400 square feet. (They’d like that, wouldn’t they? Then then can really stick it to the populace, while charging cutthroat prices!!)
City planners envision a future in which the young, the cash-poor and empty nesters flock to such small dwellings — each not much bigger than a dorm room. In a pricey real estate market where about one-third of renter households spend more than half their income on rent, it could make housing more affordable.
Manhattan is the U.S. capital of solo living, with 46.3 percent of households consisting of one person, according to the 2010 census. (that’s primarily because people have either been pushed out of or priced out of living here – think about it!) City officials estimate that 76 percent of residents on the island live alone or with one other person — and such households are growing faster around the city than any other type of living situation. Officials attribute the trend in part to young professionals delaying both marriage and childbearing.
“Around the country, more people are living alone than ever before. The solo living rate rose to almost 27 percent in 2010, according to the census. In New York City, where long working hours can leave little time for home life, renters often sacrifice square footage to save money. The size of city apartments has been lampooned on television, with at least one sitcom showing characters living — literally — in a closet. Some New Yorkers, desperate for storage space and uninterested in the finer points of homemaking, turn their ovens into storage for clothes or other items. (Interesting how they are building a rationale for suckering people into moving into a closet. I guess you can hype anything when you’ve made up your mind to sucker people into taking less.
Especially alone, paying New York City rents can be a challenge — and officials said they hoped smaller apartments would help ease the financial burden on residents facing average market-rate rents of $2,000 per month for a studio and $2,700 per month for a one-bedroom. (Ridiculous isn’t it? And you have a bogus rent board that keeps sticking it to New Yorkers because landlords are facing ‘hardships’!!)
Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Mathew Wambua said he expected the micro-units would rent for significantly less. (And if that’s the case, I have some serious questions about Wambua’s position as commissioner)
Similar programs have been proposed in other cities. In San Francisco, developers are seeking permission to rent out apartments as small as 150 square feet. Ultimately, the New York City program could be expanded to outer-borough neighborhoods where the apartments could provide safer options to the lower-income residents who are most at risk from the dangers of illegal subdivisions.
With only 1 million studio and one-bedroom apartments available for 1.8 million one- and two-person households, the shortage is forcing low-income renters into illegal apartments that can become fire traps, Bloomberg said.
In recent years, small homes have been celebrated by design aficionados who argue that minimal space, less clutter and simpler living is both financially and spiritually freeing, but the idea of towers of tiny units raises the specter of an era in which poor residents were crammed into unsafe tenements where they could afford the rent.
City officials argued this proposal was utterly different from such wholesale warehousing of the poor.
The tenement problem was big families in very small (spaces),” Bloomberg said. “We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about one or two people who want something they can afford, and they don’t “entertain or need big space.”
Modern-day building codes and improved refrigeration and public health have changed what it means to live small, Bloomberg said. A typical mid-19th century tenement apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side might have been larger than one of the micro-units, measuring 325 square feet, but would have typically housed families with multiple children. The micro-units are to be leased only to one- or two-person households.
As long as living conditions are good, housing advocate Kerri White said she had no particular concerns about the program. (Of course Kerri White would say that – she doesn’t have to live in a coffin. Interesting how an “advocate” can’t seem to advocate for expanding the standards.)
“The general attitude toward space and how we use space is very different in New York City,” said White, a director for housing advocacy group Urban Homesteading Assistance Board. “People are used to living in smaller quarters.” (Associated Press writers Mike Schneider in Orlando, Fla., and Garance Burke in San Francisco contributed to this report.)
Now the interesting thing about this whole article is that in 2009 there were 65 totally vacant, unsold condominium buildings in Brooklyn, countless more in Harlem, and other parts of Manhattan. Instead of dealing with the fact that these homes can be made affordable for New Yorkers, Bloomberg and henchmen want to build even more inadequate properties and force people to live in them. Interestingly enough, during the 2009 to 2010 period, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries presented a proposal to make this happen. It was entitled “Project Reclaim”, and is now a law on the books for New York State. In it developers can be caused to transform those vacant properties into livable, affordable housing units. But the law appears not to be enforced.
Governor Cuomo and Housing Commissioner, Darryl Towns, as well as HPD Commissioner Wambua need to be called on the carpet for not putting teeth into it and relieving New Yorkers of the substandard conditions they are currently living in. Actually, New Yorkers need to storm Gracie Mansion, HPD and demand that the bill be enforced. That would be the best occupy ever! However, instead of going after the properties for rental purposes, this time New Yorkers should be afforded the opportunity to purchase these properties at a reasonable price. Stop keeping hard working New Yorkers under the thumb while they cater to the rest of the population – some of whom, I might add, are directly responsible for the problems we’re currently facing.
In case you didn’t get the memo, or missed the article entirely, or you were off struggling trying to keep your landlord from raising your rent to an unconscionable amount, here:
Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries Successfully Encourages State to Help Transform Failed Luxury Condos into Affordable Housing – Project Reclaim initiative takes substantial step toward implementation (September 8, 2009):
Brooklyn– Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries has announced that the state has agreed to work with him to convert half-built or half-empty luxury condominiums in central Brooklyn into affordable apartments for working families and the middle class. In January Assemblyman Jeffries launched Project Reclaim, an initiative to transform market-rate condominiums that have failed into desperately needed affordable housing for the residents of central Brooklyn.
This spring, Jeffries conducted a block-by-block survey of new condominium developments in the Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhoods that he represents. The survey uncovered 66 luxury condominium or rental projects that are either under construction, completed but vacant, or only partially occupied. Several are already in the early stages of foreclosure.
“Many of these luxury condominium developments are destined to fail,” said Assemblyman Jeffries. “These buildings are coming into the real estate market in a very distressed financial climate, which includes a recession, the bursting of the housing bubble and the contraction on Wall Street.”
In order to turn the stalled projects into affordable housing, Assemblyman Jeffries has introduced legislation that will help encourage banks to refinance troubled loans secured during the building boom of 2004-2008 in amounts up to $150 million. The bill makes it easier for the New York State Mortgage Insurance Fund to insure refinanced loans made in connection with failed condominium projects, thereby incentivizing financial institutions to participate in restructured transactions.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Priscilla Almodovar, chief executive of the New York State Housing Finance Agency, stated that a plan now in its early stages would most likely include offering homebuyers state-financed mortgages for units in buildings where some have already been sold to market-rate buyers. In that case, developers would also cut the price of the apartments. Another program would set aside $5 million for $40,000 grants to 125 homebuyers.
Assemblyman Jeffries is also working with Rep. Edolphus Towns, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to pressure banks that have received federal bailout money to refinance distressed loans in order to create a financial environment where market-rate developments can be turned into affordable housing.
“The luxury condominium developments that have flooded the neighborhoods of central Brooklyn have contributed to the substantial displacement of working families, senior citizens and the middle class,” said Assemblyman Jeffries. “Project Reclaim will help insure that our community remains affordable for everyone.”
A map of Harlem’s vacant condo buildings show those condos were doing—a per square foot sales price of around $575; but have faced a decline in sales activity of more than 50 percent.
The map shows a scattering of little black dots which represent new and under-construction condo projects in Harlem and its environs on a map produced by Massey Knakel broker Shimon Shkury, who released the 2009 Northern Manhattan condo sales report. They were at one point getting $525 per square foot, but it’s down by at least 50%. the once high priced studio of $593,000, are thankfully, no more. At least for now. But if the hype artist of the real estate industry have their way, they will be gouging Northern Manhattanites again. They stated “We believe several factors in 2010 will lead to further downward pressure on residential pricing, including: increased supply as several hundred units come online.
If you look at the map of Harlem alone you can see there are a lot of properties still on the map that have not been occupied since their completion.
So what can we learn from this information, boys and girls? One even if the state does not have or provide all the funds, if you utilize the NACA (Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America) for purchase, you can actually obtain one of these properties – provided Bloomberg, Wambua, Towns and Cuomo do their job, enforce the law, and make them available to New Yorkers.
Also, when someone is willing to build you something substandard, rather than making a failed plan work in your behalf, you have to ask who are they working for, really? And do they really care about us, We the People of New York.
Let’s stop being sheeple and allowing them to force feed us garbage while they collect high salaries and luxuriate in their spaces, and at the same time try to relegate us to the outskirts of our own city. Enough is enough. There are homes already developed and available– give us the keys. We’re ready to move in.
And as for Mayor Bloomberg and his cockamamie developers, build those 325 Square Foot coffins for themselves!!!
Stay Blessed &
bullet Columnist Gloria Dulan-Wilson Is a veteran New York City Journalist. Her experiences, perspective & sense of history are an invaluable combination. “check out my blog:” www.gloria-dulan-wilson.blogspot.com
Gloria Dulan-Wilson is available for speaking engagements: Black History, African History, Foreclosure Prevention, Home Ownership, Education, etc., Contact her via [email protected]