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Stop Bashing Bloomberg’s Micro-Apartment Idea

Yes Bloomberg is an out-of-touch billionaire. Yes he wouldn’t showed in a bathroom the size of the apartments he’s proposing. Yes he’s a really easy target for proposing that people live in tiny apartments. But… he’s also right.

Here’s a reality. Manhattan apartments haven’t been affordable in a while. Residents are paying huge amounts of rent for one room Mayor Bloombergthat may be twice the size of the micro-apartments that Bloomberg is proposing.

Bloomberg can either try to regulate housing prices or deregulate minimum apartment sizes. Putting a price cap on the amount of monthly rent that can be charged for an apartment in Manhattan might be legal, but it would also be stupid in a bad economy with a troubled housing market. A lot of developments are already frozen and scrambling for funds.

Capping Manhattan rents at 750 per room would be a proposal that the Village Voice would love, but would leave hundreds of unfinished buildings standing around the city, it would bankrupt a lot of companies who have taken out loans based on projected returns and it would hit people who bought apartments to rent out and are suddenly dealing with a mortgage that they can never pay back.

The rents are outrageous, but trying to artificially cap them would be a serious blow to the economy, would put thousands out of work and would kill a lot of future development in Manhattan. So there would be some affordable apartments, but the only new apartments after that would be in housing projects.

So Bloomberg deregged apartment sizes. No one is being forced to live in these small apartments, but they will make it possible for people who can’t afford to live in Manhattan, but need to, to live in Manhattan. And that’s a good thing.

Mini-apartments cuts through the insane price situation by creating apartments that people can afford to live in. And I know people who would love a shot at a tiny but affordable place in Manhattan. A place that isn’t an illegal tiny apartment in Chinatown that puts residents at risk, but is completely legal, safe and inspected.

Laws limiting how small an apartment could be were there to prevent tenement crowding, but the people who want small places for less in Manhattan are mostly young and single. This won’t be a case of eight people crammed into 300 square feet. Though there will have to be oversight to make sure this doesn’t take off in Chinatown.

No one is supposed to live in these places for 30 years. They’re places you move into in your twenties while trying to make it in advertising, publishing or on Broadway.

Bloomberg boasted in a news conference that his first New York City flat was roughly 600 sq ft and cost between $120 and $140 each month. “I would have taken a smaller one, if I could possibly have found it,” he said.

Lots of others would too.

The question is will the rents actually be affordable?

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