It’s easy to complain about small apartments in New York. I live in one; you probably do, too. They’re cramped, the air’s stuffy, you’re always eating dinner on the couch. We live in these tiny boxes because they’re often the cheapest option available. The question at hand: if you could pay even less, would you go even smaller?

In an effort to combat a shortage of studio and one-bedroom apartments for its 1.8 million one- and two-person households, the City announced an initiative today to create a residential building composed primarily of what it’s calling micro-units–275 to 300 square foot apartments smaller than city regulations currently allow. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development is issuing a request for proposals to design, build, and run the building, which will be located on a city-owned site at East 27th St.

“Research has shown that stable, affordable housing can have a positive impact on health and well-being,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs in a statement. “[The program] will allow us to better meet the changing housing needs of New Yorkers.”

The emphasis seems to be on cheap, efficient, and modern housing for recent college grads and people who’ve recently relocated to the city, which is good–it’s easy to hear this plan and worry that it’s a thinly-veiled scheme to stuff the urban poor into ever-more-cramped quarters. All units in the 27th street building will have kitchens and bathrooms, and the request for proposal guidelines will “encourage the development of a mixed-use building with apartments that have a substantial access to light and air to create a sense of openness.”

Mayor Bloomberg will waive zoning regulations to allow the pilot building to be constructed, but there are no immediate plans to permanently change building codes. “The pilot will help inform potential regulatory changes that could allow the as-of-right development of micro-units in appropriate locations,” reads the city’s statement.

The deadline for proposals is September 14.

(Photo: Barbara Krawcowicz/Flickr)