Home alone in Gotham: when all you can afford is tiny dwellings

Remote work and prices have hollowed out part of the activity of vibrant centers, and Manhattan is a symbol of such phenomenon. But the shift didn't translate into cheaper living and rents remain prohibitive.

The long-lasting reality of micro-apartments in York shows that the need for -level housing has remained high over the decades. But the current lack of affordability may be affecting young age emancipation —and empty-nesters' ability to into smaller living quarters near vibrant city centers.

In 1965, there were about 100,000 single room occupancy units (SROs) in the city. But over the following decades developers began to convert them to larger units and today it's estimated there are just 3000 apartments in under 400 .

Over the years we've interviewed many living in spaces as small as 78 feet. These are smaller than current minimum standards, but grandfathered in as a reminder of a time when creating housing for those with limited incomes, primarily recent immigrants, was paramount.

During the course of our documenting tiny apartments in New York, the city recognized the need for smaller, more affordable spaces and eliminated the 400-square-foot . Today, zoning still requires at least of 120 square feet, and this doesn't include kitchen, bathroom and closet.

*faircompanies https://faircompanies.com/videos/home-alone-in-gotham-when-all-you-can-afford-is-tiny-dwellings/


  1. How wonderfully comprehensive this video is. I moved out of Manhattan in 1989 and never looked back, but I certainly wondered how people were making it work. Thank you for this documentation. No one else is doing it as well as you are.

  2. People like living this way I guess, but it seems like they are all a little sad. Sometimes I think people live a life that seeks validation from others and this is the end result of those types of personalities. So many people love to say they live in NY NY because they feel like it gives them some kind of status to other people. To people like themselves I suppose it does but most people prefer space and extra money in their bank accounts, I dunno.

  3. I remember all of those old videos 🙂 Reminds me of my micro apartment in Montreal. I had a mattress on the floor and I got a cat so that she would wake me up early so I could job hunt, after I missed out on so many jobs sleeping late.

  4. Yes! I remember that old video of the transforming apartment! This whole episode was super interesting. Really Loved watching every second.

  5. The average prison cell is 48 square feet. Seeing people live in 86 square feet and being considered “free”, it is night prison. Sure, I love the city, all the people, the arts, the attractions, but living in a closet is not for me. I would give it up and live somewhere else. To each their own, everyone’s level of sacrifice is unique.

  6. It’s sad to see how the city saw an historical problem with apartment sizes and made regulations to fix it, and when housing became too expensive, instead of trying to limit the prices decided to remove those regulations. We’re moving backwards.

  7. Gosh, didn’t realise I had been watching your videos for more than a decade!!!! I remember all the early ones included here. Well done Kirsten, your work never gets old. 😊😊

  8. I curently live in a 3ft by 13ft room n it works being 33 n single i cook,entertain n work in that space,but in the furure i would love some more space for a workshop,lab,and gymn, honestly 600sq feet is all the space ill ever need if i stay single

  9. Kirsten, your narrating voice is bewitching. The mix of narration and conversation is pleasant. Sometimes I feel sorry I only have a palatial 34,5 square meter apartment in Lyon because it requires so much more tidying than a larger place would, but hey, I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in such a good building if I had more square meters. Sewing projects and cooking are the things I need to be super organized with, either that or just let my visitors know that it’s a kitchen or a workshop I live in, not an apartment. Some people seem to be uncomfortable if there’s no dedicated place to receive visitors.

  10. That’s ridiculous. Where’s the government? The government must tax every square inch of such places. Having so many square inches of space and air to breath is ridiculous and should be considered almost as a crime.

  11. An engaging video that shares the reasons and experiences of different generations. Thought provoking. My first thought was why would people want to live un such small spaces with so many people crowded in one building, almost like rats in burrrows. But I guess most people in Newyork like their solitude while not out in the bustling city. The last segment with the older couple reminded me of birds migrating to a different place to raise children and going freely about after they are done. There was a time when big houses and big families were common. Now it is about individual living pursuing their own interests and moving to a larger space when required.

  12. In the 90s I lived in a 127 sq ft apartment, including the bathroom. I was so lucky to have my own bathroom. I also had a full kitchen, with stove, fridge and sink. My furniture mas a combination of cheap melamine stuff I bought, a few things I made myself, some hand-me-downs, some stuff I bought used real cheap. I didn’t have any transformer furniture, but one thing I found useful was having high bookcases. I had a few from my sister, that her boyfriend had made for her, that she didn’t want after she broke up with him. I also bought several of those metal things you screw together that you buy in hardware stores – usually used for storage in basements or garages. They are solid and not too expensive. The nice thing about high bookcases is you can put them behind lower pieces of furniture, such as a bed, and use the lower shelves that are hidden by the bed for long-term storage of stuff you rarely use, and the upper shelves for stuff you use all the time. In a small place, you really have to use your wall space.

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