Theses Master's

Developing housing for a changing demography: Analyzing the implications of the regulations governing the development of small-housing units

Panchal, Yashesh

The micro-units, efficiency units, and group-housing, collectively referred to as small-housing units in this thesis, and the Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units have been, and are continually developed to cater to the demand for affordable housing in urban core regions suited to house the increasing number of single-adults, students, the homeless population, etc. As the proportion of single-adults rises exponentially in cities in the US, it is only logical to assume a commensurate rapid development of these small-housing units. However, the supply of these small-housing units is much less as compared to its supposed demand from a growing population of single-adults. Hence, there is an observed mismatch between the actual demographic trend (that can be measured), and the ‘apparent’ demand for small-housing units in the urban core regions. Some blame the intensity of the underlying regulations, others blame the NIMBYistic attitudes of neighbors, yet, certain predict that the development of the efficiency-unit type is simply a hype and may soon die down (Infranca, 2014), (Urban Land Institute, 2014), (Beyer, 2016). The thesis identifies issues that impede the commensurate development of the small-housing unit type, which has been cited as holding a solution to provide reasonably priced housing opportunities for single adults in high-value markets (Rack, 2016), (Potikyan, 2017). The research identifies those issues in two sequential parts. First, the unpleasant experiences with the SROs in the mid-twentieth century that continue to stunt the development of similarly sized small-housing units in the US. Second, to avoid the recurrence of such a condition, the regulations build in redundancies that further restrict the development of cost-effective housing that small-housing units aim to provide. These issues are then analyzed in further detail to derive key factors that impede the development of small-housing units, and to understand if the unit type holds a sustainable solution to cater to the housing demand of a changing demography. These concerns are addressed through a series of case-studies, demographic analyses, and interviews with city agency officials and subject experts, in select cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. By systematically answering the questions in the outline below, the thesis answers the larger research question about the implications of regulations and policies that are adopted to govern the development of small-housing unit apartments in selected major cities in the US.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Freeman, Lance M.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 29, 2018