Resource Furniture is underwriter of the Big Ideas for Small Lots design competition, organized by HPD and AIANY to address the challenges of building small-scale, affordable, urban infill housing.
When it comes to housing units, New York City is known for its scarce inventory and sky-high costs. Yet the city owns thousands of acres of undeveloped land, some lots lying vacant for decades, even as affordable rental options dwindle and luxury condos rise all around.
Why do so many lots sit vacant for years, while New Yorkers struggle amidst an affordable housing crisis? Because nobody wants to build there.
Typically the result of development leftovers or zoning quirks, these city-owned lots are often too small, narrow, irregularly shaped, or otherwise onerous to develop by conventional means. Though many of these lots are located in highly desirable neighborhoods, their size and shape present unique challenges that deter developers — especially as the costs of construction continue to rise.
In 2018, construction costs rose again, as they have every year since 2010. The cost of labor and materials rose 5%, which outpaced inflation, establishing New York’s standing as the most expensive place to build in the United States. Buildable lots are still desirable to real estate developers – and developers want a return on their investment, which means building units that will fetch market- or above-market rates. Thus, opportunities to build affordable rental unit diminish.
To address this problem, mayor Bill de Blasio’s announced his ten-year “Housing New York 2.0” plan in November 2017, which builds on the success of the original Housing New York plan and furthers the City’s commitment to increase the affordable housing stock by building or preserving 300,000 affordable homes by the year 2026. In support of the plan, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has aggressively moved through its inventory of vacant and underutilized City-owned land to create more affordable housing.
Now, much of the remaining inventory includes these “development leftovers” that were once thought too challenging to build on. But in the midst of a housing shortage, even even these odd lots can’t be overlooked.
Developing small-scale, affordable urban infill housing is no small feat — so the City turned to the creative community for fresh, new ideas. With support from Resource Furniture, HPD teamed with the AIA New York to organize the Big Ideas for Small Lots NYC design competition in February 2019, which sought to address many of the challenges associated with the design and construction of affordable housing on underutilized City-owned land. Architects from all across the globe were invited to submit their designs for affordable, space- and building cost-efficient housing on 23 of these City-owned lots.
The response was overwhelming — over its two-month run, the contest produced 444 submissions from 36 countries. A panel of nine jurors evaluated the submissions for excellence in design, replicability, and construction feasibility. Five finalists were selected, and their winning designs are on display at the Big Ideas for Small Lots exhibition at the AIA New York’s Center for Architecture now through November 2.
There, visitors can also experience transforming furniture installation from Resource, which serve as examples of how these proposed infill developments might be furnished to maximize space and livability. On display is a Cabrio single-size wall bed with integrated writing desk, an Oslo queen-size sofa wall bed, and a Home Office modular cabinet that folds out into a desk.
The finalists include Mass Green Living by Anawan/101 + Kane AUD; Greenfill House as Garden by Michael Sorkin Studio; Fold and Stack by OBJ; Only If by Only If Architecture; and More with Less by Palette Architecture.
All five finalists have ties to New York City, and their final submissions draw on their own experiences living in small city apartments. The winning submissions vary in design — ranging from two- to seven-unit buildings — but all are designed to maximize limited space and create a bright, healthy environment for residents. Space-optimizing design elements include rooftop terraces, interior courtyards, flexible floor plans, common areas for co-living household arrangements, and transforming furniture.
With the help of HPD and AIA NY, the five finalists will be invited to further develop their submissions into affordable housing development proposals. HPD will assign each finalists one or more City-owned sites, based on their interest and capacity and the site’s relevance to their final submission.
In the meantime, one thing is for certain: Big Ideas for Small Lots has inspired architects, developers, property owners and the general public to rethink the way we utilize space — and that fundamental shift in thinking is sure to have an impact far beyond the five boroughs.
Resource Furniture is the proud underwriter of the Big Ideas for Small Lots design contest and exhibition. As the North American leader in transforming spaces, Resource is a major supporter of many educational and non-profit institutions around the world that explore innovative housing solutions. The City’s commitment to creating more efficient, affordable urban infill housing converges seamlessly with Resource’s overarching vision and mission.