Dwelling units for new & evolving households: adapting to the co-living economy

New York City is experiencing an acute crisis of housing affordability1. At the same time, urban households in all boroughs are undergoing significant shifts in composition due to a confluence of factors:

  • Longer life expectancy means more older residents, who increasingly wish to “age-in-community”
  • Young people want to stay in the city, rather than move to the suburbs, and seek ways to share the costs
  • Immigrants continue to flow in from across the globe, bringing a diversity of cultural traditions and preferences

People are seeking new dwelling models for living today, with a greater emphasis on shared amenities: co-housing, co-living (Common, We-Work), baugruppen, and micro-units. In Professor June Williamson’s fall 2017 studio, “NYC Hous(e)ing: designs for co-living,” we are probing the myriad opportunities for new architectural design thinking afforded by these urgent housing trends.

Recently we participated in a whirlwind two-day design workshop with housing expert and studio consultant Karen Kubey.

As she reminded us, in the words of David Madden and Peter Marcuse, from In Defense of Housing, “The built form of housing has always been seen at a tangible, visual reflection of the organization of society.” Some questions that follow, for architects, are: What sort of societal organization do we wish to see? How can we design and build our housing to reflect those desires?


KK workshop - 1
Student Natalie Pesantez discussing workshop scheme with classmate Avi Nagel


For the workshop, students matched an “inhabitant group” whose housing needs could be better met with desired outcomes, such as resident health and wellness or economic equity. Then, in 24 hours, they designed and sketched (on trace! with colored pencils and markers!) a 58,000 sq. ft. building, for a typical infill lot in Stapleton, Staten Island. The lot is one of five studio sites we will design housing proposals for over the semester. It was an exhilarating couple of days!


KK workshop Studio Sites
Selected sites for the “designs for co-living” studio, along the Bay Street Corridor on Staten Island


June Williamson, CR Studio faculty


1 The current median 1-bedroom apartment rent in New York City is over $3,300, which consumes 66% of the median household income of $60,800. Households that spend more than 30% of income on housing are considered “rent-burdened.” Over 60,000 New Yorkers are completely priced out and are housed in shelters.

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