Header Image for Print
PP banner
21st Century SROs: Can Small Housing Units Help Meet the Need for Affordable Housing in New York City?
New York City, New York    
Publication Date
New York University Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy
This policy brief explores the question of the whether New York City's housing needs formerly met by single room occupancy units can be addressed by small housing units (individual micro units and efficiencies with shared bathrooms and kitchens). In addition to analyzing the demand, cost, and rent for buildings containing small units, the report discusses five regulatory barriers limiting the construction of small units and recommendations to remedy those barriers.

New York's zoning ordinance regulates density by limiting the number of dwelling units per residential floor area. The report recommends removing the density restriction in appropriate areas such as near transit stations. The report also recommends revising the inclusionary housing regulations so that small housing units are an eligible affordable housing type.

According to the report, the city's housing maintenance code, which prohibits market-rate small units, should be revised to clarify whether the units are allowed in mixed-income buildings. Further, the report recommends the prohibition be removed altogether, with appropriate regulations added to ensure adequate management and maintenance of shared facilities.

To improve financing opportunities for buildings with small housing units, the report recommends the city support demonstration projects to show lenders the economic viability of this type of housing. The report also suggests the city could, based on the demonstration projects, create a new housing subsidy program to support buildings with small units, which are precluded by current program restrictions on the number of bedrooms, minimum unit size, and shared bathrooms and kitchens.