Project Showcase: New Models for Housing New Yorkers

New York City has a remarkably diverse, and growing, population. Yet the diversity of its populace — in economic status, cultural background, age, family structure, and livelihood — is not matched by a similar diversity in housing options.

Over the last several years, the Citizens Housing & Planning Council (CHPC) has been researching and analyzing how and where New York City’s residents live, and what housing is available to them. Their findings have revealed the many ways in which current housing regulations and standards constrain the range of choices the market can offer, particularly for single-person households, shared dwellings, and multi-generational households, through restrictions on unit size, subdivisions of existing units, and definitions of who may jointly occupy units. For example, regulations have tilted what the housing market produces towards larger units, for households assumed to be “families,” even though only 17% of New York’s dwelling units are occupied by traditional nuclear families. As a result, many households improvise their living arrangements in ways that can be illegal or unsafe. Simply put, New York City is not producing enough of the kind of housing stock its residents want and need.

To help address this critical problem, the League partnered with CHPC to carry out a design study to propose new types of housing that might better match the contemporary demographic make-up of New York and how New Yorkers choose to live now. Four teams of New York architects — lead by Stan Allen and Rafi SegalDeborah GansPeter Gluck and Terri ChiaoJonathan Kirschenfeld; and Ted Smith— each with expertise in and a particular perspective on housing design, were asked to respond to this challenge. The results of their work — which were first presented at the Making Room symposium in 2011, and are also now on display at the Museum of the City of New York in the exhibition Making Room: New Models for Housing New Yorkers — are summarized here by the teams themselves.

The projects demonstrate how we can house New Yorkers more densely, but also more efficiently, cooperatively, and creatively. Accessory dwelling units and flexible, blend-able typologies can accommodate everyone from the large multi-generational family to individual struggling artist. Well-designed micro-units can increase density while improving affordability for small households, while expanded use of shared spaces can help maximize access to amenities without radically altering existing regulations. Rethinking the relationship between commercial, residential, and leisure activities can allow us to repurpose swathes of existing spaces currently approaching the end of their useful life.

The Making Room projects presented below offer creative, implementable solutions for more affordable, legal, safe, comfortable, and desirable options in New York City’s housing market.

The Projects:


Project Leads: Stan Allen & Rafi Segal – Principal, Stan Allen Architect; Founder, Rafi Segal Architecture Urbanism

Using a typical Midtown Manhattan office tower as a case study, a proposal to take advantage of the existing structure as a platform for a new mixture of living and working in the city.


Density Diversified: Three Housing Types for Ranvenswood, Queens
Project Lead: Deborah Gans – Principal, Gans Studio

New typologies for Ravenswood, Queens, that can be leveraged to benefit the neighborhood’s existing physical and social fabric.



A Home of One’s Own – Micro-Lofts for Single Adults and Small Families
Project Leads: Peter Gluck, GLUCK+; & Terri Chiao, Founder, Katz Chiao

The micro-loft typology is designed to provide affordable housing for a growing number of single adults in New York City.




City as Living Room: Single and Shared Housing in the Bronx
Project Lead: Jonathan Kirschenfeld

Three housing types offer a range of possibilities on a redesigned Grand Concourse in the Bronx.




New York “GoHome”: Shared Housing Tried & Tested
Project Lead: Ted Smith, McCormick, Smith and Others Architects

A shared housing model addresses the problems associated with tiny units in a high-rise configuration.






Next: Stan Allen & Rafi Segal – Block/Tower