Getting your own place, that is, living without roommates, is a major accomplishment for many young adults, but especially for Manhattanites. Demand is so high for housing on this small, culturally-rich island that New York City and the Manhattan borough are perennially two of the world’s most expensive places to live.
New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s idea to “roll with the times” and allow housing units to be built smaller than 400 square feet (37.16 square meters) is generally a good idea. A Google or Craig’s List search for “small Manhattan apartments” will return numerous options much smaller than 400 ft2, and (true) urban legends abound about people subletting closets or forgoing other spacial conveniences for the sake of location and affordable rent. The proposed mini-apartments would be a good option for people who value what is near their home, rather than what is inside their home.
Is this idea sustainable? It appears so, since many people are already living in tiny spaces. The idea of living with less— less driving, fewer possessions— is also in line with modes of sustainable living.
However, is New York’s unique cultural attraction sustainable? Should one city be so much more desirable than others? Shouldn’t there be enough culturally and economically vibrant cities to satisfy everyone? Probably, yes. Until that dream becomes reality, New York City will remain a unique gem and thousands of people will live in tiny spaces in order to “be a part of it.”

Tara Aesquivel è Executive Chair dell’Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles professional development network