When will the mini-apartment arrive?

Could apartments in New York City get any smaller? Mayor Michael Bloomberg hopes so. On Monday he announced a competition for architects to submit designs for apartments measuring just 275 to 300 square feet (25.5 to 28 square meters) to address the shortage of homes suitable and affordable for the city’s growing population of one- and two-person households.

Here is more, and for the pointer I thank Asher Meir.

Comments

Because stopping rent control to address a housing shortage caused by rent control is too obvious.

Not saying that rent control doesn't exacerbate the problem, but...

Is there any evidence that rent control is what's causing the sky high rents? Even as far as stupid government ideas go, I doubt it's the primary contributor to the problem.

Can NYC's current infrastructure (roads, metro, etc.) deal with a higher people density?

Maybe the zoning-induced housing shortages are a feature, not a bug.

100 years ago, the densities in Manhattan were far higher than now -- since then, people have sprawled out into the other boroughs. Compared to the tenements of the turn of the 20th century, single people living in 300 sq ft apartments is not very dense.

Yes, 300 sq ft apartments may be better than the horrendous overcrowding and living conditions of early 20th century Manhattan. That's what I'd call damning with faint praise.

If the infrastructure were overtaxed, wouldn't that lower rents? If rents are sky high it seems clear that we are far from that state of affairs.

Also, if zoning restrictions in Manhattan were loosened, it would reduce the strain on the transportation infrastructure because more people could live close enough to work to walk there.

Also there's an awful lot of free street parking for a city whose infrastructure is allegedly so heavily taxed, they could take a lot of that out and replace it with traffic lanes or wider sidewalks.

The infrastructure is clearly overtaxed. Manhattan has some of the worst road congestion in the country. The subways and buses are frequently crush-loaded. Encouraging even more people to live and work in the city would make these problems even worse. Not to mention all the other problems of density -- crowding, noise, litter, loss of privacy, etc.

Rent regulation (comprising rent control and rent stabilization) are slowly disappearing because there are several ways that apartments leave that regulatory scheme. But perhaps more important, rent regulation does not apply to any multiple-dwelling building constructed after 1974 unless the owner voluntarily agrees to rent stabilization rules, generally in exchange for tax benefits or other incentives (e.g., the "Mitchell-Lama" program of tax breaks and subsidized mortgages that existed until 1978). Rent control applies to multiple-dwelling buildings constructed before February 1947. So rent regulation isn't to blame for the lack of new apartment construction in NYC, though there's no dispute that it has an impact on the overall market. One aspect of the problem is that people want to live in Manhattan (where Kips Bay is) and affordable apartments aren't being built in Manhattan.

"Bloomberg said the city plans to waive zoning requirements at a city-owned lot..."

But of course, no need to relax them in general. Surely the zoning laws aren't the problem.

I'm surprised that Alex didn't beat Tyler to this post.

What evidence is there that zoning laws are the problem?

Major, a good starting point is Ed Glaeser's paper on Manhattan: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/glaeser/files/Manhattan.pdf

Unfortunately, it's very difficult to build up in NYC these days.

Glaeser's argument doesn't make sense. He estimates the public cost of density ("congestion externalities") using a regression based on population, not density.

The authors of this paper: web.missouri.edu/~auras/zoning.pdf estimate that even an 8-fold increase in Manhattan's housing supply would reduce prices by only about 15%. If this is remotely accurate, the high price of Manhattan real estate doesn't have much to do with regulatory constraints on supply.

"What evidence is there that zoning laws are the problem?"

“Bloomberg said the city plans to waive zoning requirements at a city-owned lot…”

Do you want evidence or proof?

It's not technology. Go visit...New York.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZSdrtEqcHU

Bloomberg is probably doing that same political front-running move all politicians aspire to. Make something illegal, then make it legal so you get credit for the "innovation."

Honestly don't know, I'm sure there are many factors. But I do think it's amusing that technocratic meddler Bloomberg naturally tries to solve a technocratically exacerbated problem with new layers of technocratic meddling.

Eventually the layers get twisted and piled on too high and the system colapses.
Eventually you turn into Detroit :-(

Because Detroit's problem is too much regulation...

It was, actually. The crime problem didn't come till later.

Nah. Detroit's problems are varied and run deep, but the fall of the city was not government regulation, particularly when you compare it to its big city peers in the Midwest and East.

Detroit really isn't that much of an outlier. There are a number of cities that have suffered similar drops in population and problems with their crime rates and economies -- Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and St Louis, for example. All had peak populations around 1950 and have shrunk by more than half since then. Detroit went from 2M in 1950 to 700K now, while St Louis went from 850K to 320K -- about the same percentage during the same period. And it's a stretch to single out regulation as the critical factor -- as opposed to just one of the usual suspects along with crime, corruption, rent-seeking, high taxes, poor services, racial tensions, expanding rates of auto ownership, and preferences for suburban-style living (which became feasible to realize due to increasing affluence).

If you roll "city taxes" into "regulation" you can probably use it to (partially) explain Detroit's fall. Once the downward spiral and population outflow began, the city had to raise the same amount of taxes from fewer people, which compounded on itself.

But I think including "city taxes" as a "regulation" in this specific conversation wouldn't be quite honest.

If technocracy is good enough for Italy and Greece, it's good enough for us. I think Obama aspires to be a technocratic meddler himself but our less-than-parliamentary system makes this difficult even for the elected head of government.

How is removing a ban on small apartments "meddling"?? It's the opposite of meddling!

This is pure Yglesias bait..... I'm surprised Big Media Matt doesn't have on this yet.

I think cities are nice when small, rich households live there and poor people with big families live in the outer suburbs. The projects are for the birds. Bloomberg, how about you project those poor people out of the city by getting rid of your rent controls? It's a market. It's a free country. People can live where they can afford to live. If your technocratic big government, big brother, big paycheck city is attractive, then you will receive as residents the richest and best this country has to offer. Let them vote with their feet, not their Section 8 vouchers.

FWIW, here is a video about a 78 sq foot apartment (in Manhattan, of course) that I ran across a few months ago... The guys lives there by choice, or so he says.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4FoAr8i26g

Ahh, the spacious apartment joke.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/cd/Benders_apartment_room.jpg

Yes, very funny, but later it is revealed that Bender chooses to live in the closet: as it happens, he's got a larger room in behind.

There's an entire movement of people wanting to live in 'tiny houses,' and ironically the major limitation in most places is that housing regulations don't allow homes or apartments under certain sizes (usually 600 or even 1000 sq. ft, and even worse). It seems ironic to me that a move to eliminate some of these regulations, and a contest to encourage architects (as opposed to more regulations), is being panned on a libertarian blog.

"I don’t think anyone is panning the elimination of these regulations as much as the existence of these regulations in the first place." - Urstoff

Actually, there are some here panning the idea of small apartments, and others panning the idea of a contest (which I've seen commenters suggest is a great way to encourage prosocial behavior in other posts here). But if you're correct, then you're saying that only the complete and total abolition of all housing/zoning/rental regulations is something that would deserve applause?

I would certainly back that, but then Houston is my hometown.

There's a middle ground between panning excessive regulation and "only the complete and total abolition of all housing/zoning/rental regulations is something that would deserve applause".

That's exactly my point. The way I read what Bloomberg is doing, he is rolling back a few regulations, and trying to encourage the creation of efficient and small apartments (thereby theoretically increasing the supply of apartments) without adding new regulations. While this may not be enough for some, it seems like a step in the right direction. And yet it is derided here. Seems odd, and inconsistent, to me.

There’s an entire movement of people wanting to live in ‘tiny houses,’ and ironically the major limitation in most places is that housing regulations don’t allow homes or apartments under certain sizes (usually 600 or even 1000 sq. ft, and even worse).

Higher density has social costs: more congestion, more crowding, more noise, more litter, more pollution, less privacy, etc. Manhattan (density 70,000 people per square mile) is the poster child for these problems. To avoid these costs, people support laws that limit density. Even Manhattanites have their limits -- I doubt many of them would support opening up Central Park to condo developers, for example.

And yet people still keep coming there. It seems to me that those costs you mention are not yet high enough to drive people away. I am sure to some portion of the population those are features

And your "example" about Central Park does not make sense. There is hundreds of miles of skyline to be used up before you even think about the necessity of bulldozing Central Park.

FYI, a city is much more efficient than any other societal grouping. Litter goes down per capita, not up.

And yet people still keep coming there.

New York City suffered a net loss of a million domestic migrants between 2000 and 2010. That is, a million more people moved out of NYC for other parts of the country than moved into NYC from other parts of the country. The population grew only because of immigration. NYC, like other big cities, is a magnet for immigrants because it has large established immigrant communities, lots of low-level service jobs, and lots of public services geared towards low-income people.

And your “example” about Central Park does not make sense. There is hundreds of miles of skyline to be used up before you even think about the necessity of bulldozing Central Park.

You have completely missed the point. Bulldozing Central Park would have a huge adverse impact on the quality of life in the city. So would "using up hundreds of miles of skyline." Manhattan is already a very crowded, congested, noisy, dirty place. Adding more people makes these problems even worse. That's why people support laws such as zoning regulations and parkland protection that limit these problems.

FYI, a city is much more efficient than any other societal grouping. Litter goes down per capita, not up.

I have no idea what "efficient societal grouping" is supposed to mean. How do you know that "litter per capita" goes down? And why would "litter per capita" rather than "litter per square foot" be the relevant metric, anyway?

I just don't know where to begin with your logic...first you state that NYC had a million domestic migrants leave.....and yet the population kept on growing but only because it is full of poor dirty immigrants who want social services, jobs and a community? Which came first--the social services, jobs and community or the immigrants?

Besides your discussion of immigrants vs. natives is irrelevant. You are the one missing the point. Did you not read where I said the costs were still not high enough to deter people. Yes a lot of people leave a huge city--that is to be expected since it happens all the time. My point is people still keep coming! You may think it is "already a very crowded, congested, noisy, dirty place. Adding more people makes these problems even worse" but millions of other people say otherwise. Revealed preference if you will

And it only took a second of googling to find these links:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/mar/23/city-dwellers-smaller-carbon-footprints
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=bigger-cities-do-more-with-less
I don't understand what can be so confusing about what I wrote about.

first you state that NYC had a million domestic migrants leave…..and yet the population kept on growing but only because it is full of poor dirty immigrants who want social services, jobs and a community? Which came first–the social services, jobs and community or the immigrants?

Yes, as I said, the population grew only because of immigration. The city simply is not very attractive to people already living in the U.S. That's why they keep leaving in droves for other parts of the country. And the phrase "dirty immigrants" is yours, not mine.

Besides your discussion of immigrants vs. natives is irrelevant.

It's entirely relevant. New York is attractive to immigrants for the reasons I explained, but not attractive to people already living here. *Some* Americans like it, yes. But many, many more don't.

You are the one missing the point. Did you not read where I said the costs were still not high enough to deter people.

The costs are so high that New York lost a million domestic migrants just in the last ten years. And this is a long-standing trend. The city has been losing domestic migrants for decades. In contrast, the newer, low-density cities in the south and west are attracting migrants in very large numbers. For most people, those cities simply offer a much better standard of living and quality of life than dense urban places like New York.

And it only took a second of googling to find these links ... I don’t understand what can be so confusing about what I wrote about.

It's confusing because you wrote "efficiency," which you now apparently equate with reduced consumption. I'm not sure why you think reducing consumption is the same thing as increasing efficiency, or why higher efficiency, so defined, is desirable anyway. Chinese peasants probably have a more "efficient societal grouping," as you are defining that phrase, than New Yorkers. Does that mean New Yorkers should aspire to live like Chinese peasants? You don't seem to have thought very carefully about the assumptions that underlie your position.

A good way to tell whether something is attractive is how much people are willing to pay for it. New York is very expensive. Too expensive certainly for many people who would otherwise like to live their even given all the negatives associated with living in a congested city. A Porsche is a very impractical car with many downsides and not many people have one. It is deceptive to look at the small numbers of people with Porsches and attribute this to the automobiles impracticalities and declare the vehicle undesirable. Quite the contrary it is very desirable it is so desirable so that many people will pay several times more for it than for a more typical automobile.

Major,The migration from the NE towards the sunbelt probably has less to do with the social costs you think cities present and more to do with jobs in comparison to cost of living.

MIchael Foody said A good way to tell whether something is attractive is how much people are willing to pay for it. New York is very expensive

The big problem with that line of thinking is that it there are many places that cost a fraction of NYC but where a huge influx of people is occurring. The reason the price is so low *despite* the large population influx is because they are allowed to build enough new housing to accommodate the new arrivals.

Due to this, the fact that New York is very expensive compared to many very desirable places doesn't actually tell you very much at all about how attractive NYC is.

A good way to tell whether something is attractive is how much people are willing to pay for it. New York is very expensive.

And most people are not willing to pay for it. That's why New York keeps losing people. They can get a spacious, comfortable modern home elsewhere for less than the price of a shoebox in NYC.

It is deceptive to look at the small numbers of people with Porsches and attribute this to the automobiles impracticalities and declare the vehicle undesirable. Quite the contrary it is very desirable it is so desirable so that many people will pay several times more for it than for a more typical automobile.

The best measure of the desirability of a product is demand. The more desirable it is, the higher the demand. Demand for Porsches is low, in part because they are so expensive. We live in the real world, not in an impossible imaginary world where prices don't matter.

Per Major, below:

Does that mean New Yorkers should aspire to live like Chinese peasants?

Yes, YES, YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Good luck persuading them.

I'm not sure why you assume smaller dwellings necessarily means higher density. In many of the places people want to build tiny houses for themselves, they're wish to do so because that's simply the size they want. In the vast majority of suburban areas, and in many rural areas, building codes don't allow people to build smaller than 600 sq. ft., and often not smaller than 1000 sq. ft. And while there is nothing to stop someone from buying a 2000 sq. ft. home and moving their family of 10 into it, there are usually laws that keep a couple living in a 1200 sq. ft. home on the same sized lot from building a 400 sq. ft. cottage in the back yard for their elderly mother. Put in your terms, there are significant social costs to requiring people to only own homes that are often far bigger than they need or want.

But back to the test case of Manhattan. In cities where smaller 'infill' dwellings would mean higher density, I'm not convinced your negatives outweigh the positives, at least in many cases. Replacing parking lots used by suburban commuters who work in the city with small, efficient dwellings lived in by those workers is likely to decrease traffic, pollution, noise, and lost productivity (time spent commuting is the greatest waste of our age). Using an extreme and silly example, like turning over Central Park to condo developers, doesn't count as evidence for your case. There are plenty of highly functional yet crowded cities that have no problem handling litter, maintaining greenspace, and so on. Central Park is a fine example of that. And the short time I lived in Manhattan, I didn't find it to be nearly as dirty or noisy as you make it seem. If the work I do was widely available there, I probably would have stayed. Also, I wonder why you don't criticize the actual proposal Bloomberg made? Always easier to tee off on straw men, I guess.

By the way, a century ago Manhattan was far more dense than it is now. I'm sure then it was a pretty tough place to live. But the fact that the current version of the city is as livable as it is, with a population density that is vastly higher than all but a handful of cities in north America, shows just how well modern humans can live in highly dense situations.

In the vast majority of suburban areas, and in many rural areas, building codes don’t allow people to build smaller than 600 sq. ft., and often not smaller than 1000 sq. ft.

Can you show us (with a link) a concrete example of such a code, and the explanation of it?

In cities where smaller ‘infill’ dwellings would mean higher density, I’m not convinced your negatives outweigh the positives, at least in many cases.

Then you can lobby and vote accordingly. But since your view of the relative sizes of the negatives and positives don't seem to be widely shared, you probably won't win.

Replacing parking lots used by suburban commuters who work in the city with small, efficient dwellings lived in by those workers is likely to decrease traffic, pollution, noise, and lost productivity (time spent commuting is the greatest waste of our age).

Huh? Why should we assume that the suburban commuters would be willing to move to these "small efficient dwellings" in the city?

Using an extreme and silly example, like turning over Central Park to condo developers, doesn’t count as evidence for your case.

Given your "let the market decide" premise, why is it extreme and silly? If we should eliminate other zoning laws and just let the market decide how densely to build, how tall to build, how to mix different types of land use, etc. why shouldn't we also let the market decide how much land to use for parks?

But the fact that the current version of the city is as livable as it is, with a population density that is vastly higher than all but a handful of cities in north America, shows just how well modern humans can live in highly dense situations.

"Livability" is a subjective assessment, not an objective fact. I think this basic confusion of personal preferences for facts -- "I like city life; therefore city life is objectively superior" -- lies at the heart of the movement to promote dense urbanism.

In the vast majority of suburban areas, and in many rural areas, building codes don’t allow people to build smaller than 600 sq. ft., and often not smaller than 1000 sq. ft.

Can you show us (with a link) a concrete example of such a code, and the explanation of it?

>>I just googled the zoning laws of 4 suburban cities/counties I've lived in my lifetime. The minimum size for a single unit dwelling ranged between 800 sq. ft. and 1000 sq. ft. Took me all of 2 minutes. Try it, you might be surprised.

In cities where smaller ‘infill’ dwellings would mean higher density, I’m not convinced your negatives outweigh the positives, at least in many cases.

Then you can lobby and vote accordingly. But since your view of the relative sizes of the negatives and positives don’t seem to be widely shared, you probably won’t win.

>>So now you shift from making the point that there are definite, proven negatives to higher density (which you haven't supported with a single reference) to making the case that politically it's hard to change these laws. You really aren't very ethical in these kinds of discussions, are you?

Replacing parking lots used by suburban commuters who work in the city with small, efficient dwellings lived in by those workers is likely to decrease traffic, pollution, noise, and lost productivity (time spent commuting is the greatest waste of our age).

Huh? Why should we assume that the suburban commuters would be willing to move to these “small efficient dwellings” in the city?

>>One bit of evidence is that there is a substantial subculture in many places where people are doing just that, illegally. There are also documented cases of cities doing just that. Again, try googling a bit. If you had supplied even a single reference for your points, I'd take the trouble to do the same. But you're just repeating your own opinions, with the hope that repetition will prove you correct. Sorry, doesn't work that way.

Using an extreme and silly example, like turning over Central Park to condo developers, doesn’t count as evidence for your case.

Given your “let the market decide” premise, why is it extreme and silly? If we should eliminate other zoning laws and just let the market decide how densely to build, how tall to build, how to mix different types of land use, etc. why shouldn’t we also let the market decide how much land to use for parks?

>>When did my premise become "let the market decide" or "eliminate all zoning laws"? You're the one who created these straw man arguments, so you can argue with yourself those.

I just googled the zoning laws of 4 suburban cities/counties I’ve lived in my lifetime. The minimum size for a single unit dwelling ranged between 800 sq. ft. and 1000 sq. ft. Took me all of 2 minutes.

So copy and paste the links. It'll take you all of 10 seconds. It's not my job to substantiate your claims. That's your job.

So now you shift from making the point that there are definite, proven negatives to higher density (which you haven’t supported with a single reference) to making the case that politically it’s hard to change these laws.

I'm not "shifting." Increasing density has social costs -- congestion, crowding, noise, litter, loss of privacy, etc. Not surprisingly, therefore, people support laws that limit increases in density. The fact that these laws are so widespread (enacted in thousands of cities and counties across the country) and have been in effect for so long (decade after decade, election cycle after election cycle) suggests that they serve important and long-standing public purposes to which, for some reason, you seem oblivious.

One bit of evidence is that there is a substantial subculture in many places where people are doing just that, illegally.

Please produce this evidence of a substantial subculture in many places of suburban commuters illegally moving into "small efficient dwellings" in the city.

When did my premise become “let the market decide” or “eliminate all zoning laws”?

Then which of the current zoning restrictions on market outcomes do you wish to repeal or change, what changes do you seek, and what arguments do you offer for the changes? Hopefully, you have arguments a bit more sophisticated than "I’m not convinced your negatives outweigh the positives" or "I didn’t find [Manhattan] to be nearly as dirty or noisy as you make it seem," which don't seem likely to persuade many people to adopt your position.

I don't think anyone is panning the elimination of these regulations as much as the existence of these regulations in the first place.

I've seen a lot of coverage of this in NYC and much of it suggests that tiny (300 sf) apartments are a wild and crazy idea. But there are hundreds of these apartments in Manhattan already. I live in one, and I looked at a few more when I was apartment hunting. I did not, however, look at any 78 sf apartments.

Of course, apartments much smaller than this are common in Japan.

Bloomberg is the worst.

For removing a ban on small apartments?!?!

What could be the advantage of such a ban? It lowers demand for housing which will lower prices relative to baseline, making it easier for people to afford larger apartments if they want them. The only thing that sucks about it is he didn't completely remove the ban, there's still a minimum limit.

What could be the advantage of such a ban?

It limits the problems caused by higher density, as has been explained in numerous other comments.

The NYC Mini-apartment has already arrived - I know 2 people that live in <250 sq ft apartments in the Lower East Side. One is a studio, one is a 1-bedroom. They are expensive too, $1800 for one and $2050 for the other.

At one point when I was a student in Tokyo, I lived in 50 square feet (three tatami mats) for around $700 a month. There was a shared bathroom and kitchen, and the location was a two minute walk away from one of the main train stations, so it had its pluses -- but the room was only big enough to accommodate a small desk and chair, a single rack of clothes, and a roll-out futon on the floor for sleeping (which spent most of its time rolled up in the corner because it took up all of the remaining floor space).

I eventually left it for a 100 square foot room five minutes away from another major station, which cost $900 a month.

Cramming more people into New York City is probably a bad idea. Doing so is just pouring more gasoline into a highly volatile situation. The pre-antibiotic era didn’t have the profoundly vectorist combination of:

1. Over 6 billion people.
2. Hyper-urbanization.
3. “anti-racist” monstrosities like the United States controlling the world’s reserve currency, nuclear stockpiles, world-dominant media/academia propaganda machine and prisons full of HIV-infected ethnic rape gangs aimed at anyone, including their own citizens, resisting the “anti-racist” flow of virulence across neighborhood, city, county, state and national borders worldwide.
4. Immune suppressed populations of HIV-infected concentrated in the high population, high density, urban black holes of hypercivilization.
5. An airline industry carrying so many passengers between continents that it could, if instead aimed at space settlements with appropriate engines, depopulate the world very quickly using no more fuel than it does now.

Of course, we know the idiot elites-that-be can’t possibly do the right thing and control their vectorist urges. But they can’t even set up multi-billion dollar prize awards for affordable drugs that kill many of these emerging drug resistant virulent strains to save their bacon. They really are aware at some level that they have usurped power and that fair contests would show the real winners to the world. That’s why it took an Iranian-American family to fully fund the X-Prize. The idiot elites-that-be would rather free-ride technological civilization itself down. Let us hope they don’t take the biosphere down along with it.

There are good reasons to empty the cities. A pandemic may make this all too obvious. Information technology has largely changed the neolithic basis of civilization and additional innovations will usher in a postcivil era of much richer human choice and sustainability. Postcivil society is coming. The transition will be rough. Empty the cities now to minimize human suffering during the transition.

With neolithic agriculture came civilization.

With the Internet and advances in shipping technology we can enter a postcivil era with social organization much closer to that of the Greek demes (kin-based agrarian populations of about 5,000) that gave rise to their Golden Age.

Not only can we enter such a postcivil era, we are entering it. The rate of evolution of human pathogens is much higher now. The availability of technologies that can destroy urban centers is much wider now. The population is much more concentrated now.

Postcivil society will be the result. The only question is how much human suffering can be prevented by taking action to empty the cities before they are forced to seek new abodes.

Decentralized production and local consumption of food is far more energy and capital efficient since it needn’t be transported to urban centers. This needn’t involve a return to old agrarian technologies—although from an examination of household leisure time remaining for most employees after work and other burdens of civilization, it is apparent that civilized jobs are little more efficient for food acquisition.

Moreover, the small residual needs for distribution of food to cover local shortage is far more viable now with “just in time” inventory systems based on efficient, decentralized and very robust communications infrastructure. For example, the trading pits are not a necessity—it can all be electronically distributed and decentralized with reputation networks.

Likewise, huge central repositories of grain and livestock yards are inefficient inventory policies vulnerable to attack and sabotage.

Chicago can go.

Similar arguments apply to almost all other urban areas due to their existence as mere levels of abstraction atop the thermodynamics of food. The primary value of such abstractions remains via the distributed networks of communication keeping alive inter-cultural dialogs for those who choose it.

Centralized population structure creates vulnerabilities.

The obvious vulnerabilities, such as pandemics, bioweapons attacks, nuclear attacks, due to centralization of population, central stores and transportation hubs, need not be elaborated.

How will this unfold?

This outflow of population to the areas of solar collection of their energy—photosynthesis of their food—to reduce total system complexity will necessarily be driven by the ecological structure of the food chain.

It will likely begin when a few catastrophes hit and cause millions of deaths rendering the apparent “safety” of urban areas a cruel deception. Since there have been no massive wars in the Western world since WW II, there has arisen a profound complacency which has just recently be shaken by the AIDS pandemic, the attacks of 9/11, the de-population of New Orleans and the on-going sacrifice of civil liberties for “homeland security” primarily due to the vulnerability of specialized, highly centralized, structures. The world’s population is far more vulnerable to pandemics today than it was in 1918 and there could easily be a billion deaths, disproportionately concentrated in highly civilized societies if cascade effects arise as they are likely to.

As this awareness rises, and people begin to look for genuine security and alternatives to urban lifestyles, it will become apparent that current social constructs aren’t working for people. People will no longer see contributing half of their labor to a government that is resulting in their deaths as a good deal.

Structures stabilized by bottom-up kin-altruism than top-down enforcement will become the obvious solution and people will naturally migrate to those most akin to themselves. Some people will continue to believe the multicultural ideology that maximum diversity within the smallest area is the best way to live and they—too—will find their “kin” as multicultural demes will certainly form near the former urban centers.

Initially, land will be a problem, not because there isn’t enough of it but because of the centralization of ownership.

Localized agricultural consumption, in present circumstances, under which land ownership is highly centralized, requires particularly high-density and low-capitalization forms of agriculture so that tenants can rent inexpensive land and make minimal capital investments (investments that will inure to the landlord as tenancy is terminated) in it while reaping subsistence over a very short period of time. Trophic losses dictate that any investment in such an agricultural system focus on highly efficient autotrophic sources with, at most, one highly optimal trophic layer prior to human consumption. (“Trophic losses” are the losses of food energy that occur in a layer of the food chain. “Autotrophic” means acquiring energy and materials for sustaining life from the inorganic environment—typically photosynthetic organisms that fix carbon dioxide and nitrogen, etc. with solar energy.)

Do you have a newsletter that I could subscribe to?

jr: No, but you should visit my website.

What would be the price, the rent and the projected profit ratio for such an appartement?
I own one with 21sqm/226sqft, in a southern Germany city. It delivers a small but steady profit.

Having lived in Paris for quite a few years, I must say that apartments of 15-30 m2 are not uncommon. It's basically like living in a somewhat spacious hotel room, which is fine for a single, young professional.

I have lived in apartments like that, illegal though they may have been, in San Francisco, it was not at all bad though I did have a really nice portable burner/hotplate.

A pity that these aren't more common, especially outside of major cities. Having expensive $1800 studios in NYC is one thing, but for someone like myself who is interested in lifestyle design rather than rampant consumption, a 200 sq ft box apt in Pittsburgh or St. Louis with super-low selling price, almost nonexistent property taxes, and reduced utility expenses would be ideal. After all, how much house does a single working professional spending most of the time at the office need to consume? More space = more waste = more consumption of material good = more upkeep costs = working longer.

Sorry, but WTF is "lifestyle design"?

10'x30' is about the size of a shipping container. Paging Peter Thiel!

Sometimes Americans don't realize how rich they still are, even compared to other wealthy countries.

In Stockholm, you could easily pay well over $300K for 25-30 m^2 in decent condition in a good area near downtown. The smallest places that regularly come on the market are around 20 m^2. It's becoming more rare, but it's not that unusual to see an ad for a place without a shower or one where the shower is jury-rigged with a hose from the sink.

Swedish IKEA website suggests how to fit furniture for a family of four in 40m^sq....

If you can use Central Park as your yard, that's an acceptable size for a single.

Urinating indoors is unsanitary. Who wants to live in a place where you can't go outside to take a whiz or occasionally fire off a couple of rounds from your .30-.30?

Check out Kirsten Dirksen's "We the Tiny House People" documentary. She is the cofounder of faircompanies.com and a contributor of Huffington Post and others. Available for free in YouTube. Just search "We the Tiny House People" or "kirstendirksen" and it will pop up. Cheers.

Oregon's public radio station this morning had a lengthy show about "tiny houses" in Portland, which might lack running water and electricity and are crammed into somebody's backyard. There were interviews with the enthusiastic designers and inhabitants of these houses; it seemed so much like an episode of "Portlandia" that Carrie Brownstein even tweeted in during the show: "I guess people in Portland are now living in large coffee mugs." and "Renting out my mailbox. It's one bedroom, could be converted to two. Pets OK."

This is not a revolutionary idea. People have been cramming themselves into all sorts of tiny spaces to live within their means since civilization. But it seems innovative and above all, cool, when it's young, high-g, childless people who shop at Ikea. Of course, for the majority of such people, they are doing this now to make enough money in their big-city career and purchase more living space later.

Bloomberg is making exactly the right policy choice, because handing out Section 8 vouchers and bus tickets to elsewhere and converting the old places into chic, high-density studios means his city gets more people like Matthew Yglesias and less people like Matthew Yglesias's attacker. In another era, he would have made an excellent Lord Mayor of a city-state.

It's funny to read the smug, critical comments about the tiny house movement. Yes, in places like Portland there are young hipsters who have read Thoreau and want to live with the smallest possible 'footprint' possible, and who give a try to chemical toilets and treated rainwater. And there are those who can't get far enough away from civilization, and want to live off the grid, who couldn't be more different than the Portland types, but who are adopting very similar choices for living. Then there are smart, relatively wealthy people who love efficiency and design and minimalism, and are making an esthetic choice. And there are people who can't afford the classic suburban 3 br/2ba dream, and don't want to rent, and are smart enough to realize that as long as housing costs take up a major portion of their income they will never be able to save or retire. There are empty nesters who are ready to get rid of all the stuff they no longer need nor care about. There are some who take pride in building a livable home for virtually no cost, using found and recycled materials.

Go visit the Tiny House Blog, read some posts, and especially read though the comments. You'll find that it's a much more diverse crowd, living in far more diverse situations, than you imagine.

I have been reading several of your articles and I thought I will leave a Short Reply: Thanks =)

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