Micro Suites

Finding an apartment in New York City is no easy task, especially for recent college graduates. This week developers are breaking ground in Queens on a new kind of apartment building. One they say will help millennials afford to stay in the city. Tariro Mzezewa reports.

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When Joanna Franco graduated from Pace University in the spring she moved onto her friend’s couch. She couldn’t find an affordable apartment or even a room to rent in the city. After three months of searching on Craigslist and Facebook groups, she found a place and was relieved.

FRANCO: I was about to lose hope because in NY it’s really not easy to find an apartment, absolutely not. (00:05)

The Harlem apartment still has some common problems: Franco and her four roommates split the nearly 5,000-dollar rent. And she pays 850 a month-pretty good deal for Manhattan. But what she doesn’t get? Privacy. She shares a room that’s divided in half by bookshelves on one side and the other side of the room has glass French doors.

FRANCO: At first that was weird for me because I have guy roommates right? And I was like “I’m not gonna change in my room.” But now living with so many people, you gotta do what you gotta do. I’m like “Whatever I’m gonna change in my room and hopefully nobody’s in the living room.” ( 0:13)

Franco’s situation isn’t uncommon. In fact, it’s the norm. Recent grads who can’t afford to meet strict lease requirements and high broker fees often move in together and create space however they can.

FRANCO: I don’t need lavish homes; I don’t need a big apartment. I firmly believe that the idea of smaller space, as long as it’s your private space, for a cheaper amount that’s totally worth it. (00:13)

Developers say they’ve found a solution: The microsuite. The tiny 450 or so square feet spaces with shared bath and kitchen wouldn’t be that different from Franco’s apartment, but Christopher Bledsoe, founding partner of Stage 3 Properties, says they will allow for more privacy and personal space.

BLEDSOE: We don’t feel like what we’re doing is revolutionizing anything. What we’re doing is looking at behavior that’s taking place, the shortcomings and looking and seeing how we can improve it. (00:14)

The microsuite model allows developers to get around some city codes that make it hard to build apartments less than 400 square feet and prohibit more than three unrelated adults from sharing an apartment.

Sarah Kelman and her roommate Caitlin searched for the perfect place for months before they moved into a prototype of a microsuite on West 101st Street. The two women have very little space, but for $1100 per month each, they have walls separating their rooms.

KELMAN: This seemed palatial and beautiful and so well made and modern and all these great things, especially the bedrooms were well sized, even the smaller one. (00:10)

Kelman says they’ve adjusted to the murphy bed style kitchen table they have to pull down from the wall to use. And to moving the only two chairs in the apartment between the living room and kitchen. They’re 5’5 women are even used to standing on a chair to reach the cabinets and shelves that are close to the ceiling.

KELMAN: It’s really small. Right now we’re sitting in my kitchen, living room, dining room, which I think is very quintessential New York. (00:05)

Stage 3 is keeping the exact location of its building under wraps, but Bledsoe says it will be in Queens. The building will house up to 350 people. Each suite will have three to five 250 square foot bedrooms and Bledsoe says it will cost a third less than a comparable apartment in the same neighborhood. There’s already a waitlist of more than 200 people and move-ins will start next summer.

Tariro Mzezewa, Columbia Radio News.

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