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20 Jane Street, #2C (Compass) 20 Jane Street, #2C (Compass)
The pandemic has changed how New Yorkers live, work, exercise, and play, and would also appear to have altered how they build and buy apartments: In a trend profile from January 2023, Kimberly Jay of Compass said, “First-time homebuyers are forgoing studios and straight one-bedrooms unless they can reconfigure the floor plan to accommodate an extra room.” Memories of whole families crammed into one apartment at the height of lockdown remain vivid, and discussions of micro-units as a way to solve the housing crisis have dwindled to a hush.

As such, fewer new studios are taking shape. An analysis by The New York Times noted that thanks to the popularity of uber-luxury boutique buildings with only a small handful of half-floor, full-floor, and multi-level apartments, newly built studios and one-bedrooms have dwindled. On the rare occasion that studios are being built in these new developments, they are often marketed as guest or staff quarters to be purchased along with a large apartment rather than treated as a singular purchase. It does not help matters that, according to Curbed, zoning no longer allows for full towers of studios and one-bedrooms, much like the ones that went up in the 1950s and 1960s.
But while studio construction is dwindling, demand for them is on the rise: A new report from Miller Samuel found that studios saw the biggest increase in Manhattan sales during the second quarter of 2023. Appraiser Jonathan Miller found that they became more popular at the start of the pandemic, a time when people got tired of living with roommates and struck out on their own in smaller spaces, and continue to rise in popularity. Additionally, the New York Post recently ran a profile of buyers who don’t live in the city full-time, but bought studios as alternatives to hotels or Airbnbs. The latter is especially important in light of The Short-Term Rental Registration Law that is set to go into effect on September 5. (As an aside, a judge recently dismissed Airbnb's lawsuit, giving the new law a clear path forward.)
It also helps that studios have evolved beyond one single, sparse room into homes that can be more thoughtfully or creatively planned than apartments twice their size. Rentals like The Artisan in Essex Crossing, The Set in Hudson Yards, and The Smile in East Harlem have incorporated space-saving modular furniture that lets residents create all sorts of configurations and stow their furniture in the ceiling when they aren’t using it. This feature has not caught on as much in sales units, with the notable exception of Tangram House West in Flushing, but builders are getting more creative with layouts, and owners have taken the initiative to add custom furniture and storage to make the most of their limited square footage.

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