Compact Convenience or Craziness in Harlem?
A new project in Harlem is offering apartments as small as 100 sq ft that rent for $1275/month. The building at 14 Convent Avenue is a former SRO, a designation that allows a dwelling unit’s primary room to be smaller than 150 sq ft, the standard minimum size for a normal apartment.
Rumor has it that Shanghai Holdings, the company behind the project, did not get the Department of Building’s approval to change the building’s status from SRO to regular residential building. Of this, DOB spokeswoman Kelly Magee told the NY Daily News, “If [DOB] inspectors don’t rubber-stamp the conversion, Shanghai could be in trouble.”
Legal compliance issues aside, 14 Convent raises some dicier questions about tiny living. At 100 sq ft, these studios are 36% the size of the 275 sq ft adAPT NYC micro-apartments. They can barely fit a non-twin-sized bed. Is this just just too damn small?
Perhaps the more appropriate question is whether the $1275 rent is too damn high for this type of place? People should be able to live however they choose to live. But one of the promises of going micro is some sort of savings. For example, some of the aPodments in Seattle are just as small, but they rent for as little as $350/month. In fact, their most expensive units are around $500 cheaper and considerably larger than 14 Convent. Sure, Seattle might be an orange to NYC’s apple in terms of property values, but it’s important to note 14 Convent is not in the middle of Soho–it’s in Harlem where rents are historically cheaper than the rest of Manhattan.
History is changing. A quick survey of Craigslist shows that $1275 for a studio in that neighborhood is a steal (though none appear to be this small). It should be noted that prices do get much cheaper per person and space gets much larger for multi-bedroom apartments (e.g. two people splitting a two bedroom).
It also should be noted that there are numerous one bedrooms in the area selling for under $200K. We found one pretty basic unit for $130K a couple blocks from 14 Convent. With a 20% ($26K) down payment, a 4% 30 year mortgage and a $370 coop fee, monthly payments would be $865. This is for a much larger one bedroom.
We realize not everyone has the $26K and other monies necessary to buy an apartment, nor may they have the inclination to do so. It’s more to illustrate that Shanghai Holding’s prices might reflect ambition as much as they do market value.
Apparently, Douglas Elliman, the firm listing the apartments, wrote that they feature “”robust sunlight” and “generous” cabinet space. These descriptions are reminiscent of the King’s Cube parody video from Hong Kong, where the narrator dresses up the fact that he’s trying to sell a closet as an apartment.
We use the word “apparently” because the Elliman listing was taken down last night. Perhaps the none-too-flattering press (Curbed called it “The Smallest, Saddest Apartment in the City“) brought attention to the questionable code compliance. Or perhaps it led to people immediately renting the apartments out.
Top image by SUSAN WATTS for NEW YORK DAILY NEWS