Micro-lofts – The Shrinking Condo

Tara and Herb both sent me two related articles about some cool lofts under development in Vancouver B.C. Canada. These micro-lofts are about 270 square feet, the size of two parking spaces.

General manager Jon Stovell says the micro-lofts will have pretty much everything essential for living, including a bathroom, kitchen, workspace and big loft-style windows that provide natural ventilation and bright views of the street.

“They have a fold-down wall bed, and when that wall bed is up, it has a fold-down table. We integrated a workbench with a built-in flat screen TV so that that does not take any room and created a glassy washroom enclosure that functions as a single area — shower, and toilet and sink all in one area.

Stovell doesn’t think the tiny size will affect livability of the suites, which he compares to similar developments in cities such as New York and London, England, as there are plenty of amenities in the neighbourhood, such as cafés, restaurants and other public spaces.

“I think a couple could live in there,” he said. “They are very beautiful and very modal, and you can switch them around in different ways, depending on what your needs are.”

Other cities are also experimenting with small-size suites in central neighbourhoods. Shoebox Lofts in Portland, Ore., Cubix Yerba Buena in San Francisco and Moda Apartments in Seattle all have units in the 250- or 300-square-foot range.

You can read both articles here: The Global Mail and CBC News.

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Michael O'Leary - January 26, 2010 Reply

I love seeing developers move in directions like this. What a great improvement in philosophy, or at least the recognition of another philosophy.

rick - January 26, 2010 Reply

I wonder if they have come up with a shower / sink / toilet combo unit that is mass produced and is available on the market somewhere?

    Kent Griswold - January 26, 2010 Reply

    Hi Rick – I can’t find any more information about the details at this point. This will be something to keep an eye on though as they seem to have some great ideas.

Chrystal Ocean - January 26, 2010 Reply

I live in British Columbia, a ferry ride away from Vancouver and 45″ drive north of Victoria. I wrote about this yesterday. There’s another aspect of this issue that is conveniently being ignored by most media.

Brand - January 26, 2010 Reply

Awesome! That is precisely my style of place. Perhaps a little wary of the bath arrangement (is a 40 sqft bathroom really too big?), but it’s got style and location, location, location.

alice - January 26, 2010 Reply

There were issues with the way the building was made available for development http://www.pivotlegal.org/News/06-05-12–burnsblock.htm but there is also something wrong about allowing buildings to deteriorate to the point where they can only be demolished. There is a market for this type of rental unit in Vancouver and people should have this option. What gets activists cranky, and rightly so, is that the crummy places are being gentrified but decent housing options are not being provided for the homeless and low income people to replace what’s being taken from them. Suites this size are also not new in this area. See the article about lock-off suites in high rises at http://thetyee.ca/News/2009/03/10/SkySuites/

Lucas - January 26, 2010 Reply

The social ramifications of displacing people is no laughing matter. Unfortunately, our(at least in the US) society seems to think putting everybody of one socioeconomic bracket together is a good plan. Sadly, a number of low income people are subject to the miscreants that live amongst them, thereby ruining the whole basket and casting a shadow on low income occupants.The same is true in studies that have examined locking all criminals up in the same room and expecting rehabilitation; doesn’t work! There’s a lot of gray area here. As Alice stated, a building degrading to the point of demolition is sad. So is continually overbuilding and overdeveloping so that a few can have massive amounts of real estate to themselves. High density urban living in a small space is a wise move. This will gain traction with continued underemployment a problem. Let’s just hope that social stratification isn’t the M.O. of the powerbrokers that spawn these things.

Chrystal Ocean - January 26, 2010 Reply

I get continually frustrated that there are SO many fantastic ideas for tiny living as, for example, demonstrated in this blog, ideas that could solve issues like homelessness and housing affordability in an instant. Yet the powers-that-be and those who support them, won’t get their heads out of their arses or, more likely, think only in terms of their own short-term gains. Long-term, everyone pays a cost for ignoring these issues. I’d LOVE a tiny house; I dream about it all the time. But in my community, it’ll never be because land won’t be freed up to permit it.

Cori - January 26, 2010 Reply

I love this idea, though I would take the college dorm approach of a lofted bed with the workspace underneath. I’d rather climb a ladder to bed instead of entirely clearing off the table, storing the dining chairs someplace, and then flipping the bed down each night.

    Louise - January 27, 2010 Reply

    Cori, I agree. If you’re living with another person, there is no guarantee that both will want to go to sleep at the same time. My husband often stays up 2-3 hours longer than I do. Being able to climb into bed while he still reads is important.

biscuitninja - January 26, 2010 Reply

Do you have any contact information about this micro condos?

Susan McReynolds - January 27, 2010 Reply

My only problem with this is the crummy plan for the dinig room table. I do not want to move my entire workspace(isn’t that what a dining room table really is?)/dining room table every night to pull down a murphy bed. Years ago, when my family was VERY poor we lived in a rental that had a REVOLVING murphy bed! It was from the 20’s and rotated on a spindle into the closet when not in use. The living room was then smaller and a little table in the kitchen area sufficed. Where are those awesome Murphy beds these days? I have since seen a number of them in these old Berkeley homes.

Glen Aldridge - January 27, 2010 Reply

The other aspect of this is of course cost & profit. With average condo prices in Vancouver running $250 – 300,000. something affordable for the masses is going to have a sq. footage penalty.
This may be good for those that want to live in a confined area but I wonder how long before Domestic Abuse calls are increased because of the lack of personal space. I’m sure these units are not in my definition of affordable & even if they were I don’t think I would like to hear the arguments from my compacted neighbours.

alice - January 27, 2010 Reply

There are lots of single working people in Vancouver that prefer not to have room(or other)mates and many of the people this type of housing appeals to spend most of their waking hours when not at work out taking advantage of the many local recreational activities. One would hope there’d be a secure gear lockup in the building for bikes, kayaks, etc. There are lots of larger spaces for couples and families that need it but very few options for people who prefer a small space all to themselves. The population is predicted to increase substantially in the next few years and urban density is a major issue here.

Brand - January 27, 2010 Reply

Yes, precisely!

I’m a single professional myself, and I’d really prefer to be right in the middle of things. I live in a college town, and during the housing boom, we saw far too many developments with condos in the $300-400K range. Lots of rare in-town lots got purchased and low-end housing stock demolished so that the area could gentrify even further. I don’t want to live in the beat up student houses right around campus, but I find $1500-2000/month rent to be somewhat preposterous, let alone a 1500 sqft “loft”. Anything over 600-700 sqft is total overkill for someone of my needs. All the extra space, and thus rent money, is also a needless drain on my finances. I would rather be spending the extra money enjoying the campus activities and nightlife.

It’s possible to find diversified housing stock towards the boundaries of town, but then you end up with at least a 20-30 minute commute if you work downtown. That’s preposterous in a city of only 125,000 people (excluding students), plus it necessitates owning a car in an otherwise very walkable community.

The gentrified lofts are a crappy solution to urban infill, but I suspect it’s easy to justify thanks to better property taxes. Of course, if you had a larger number of smaller units in the same sized building, maybe the tax number would be identical.

It’s also worth noting that although there are plenty of white-collar jobs in this city, many university workers have mundane jobs that pay perhaps $30-40K/year. A better housing mix would cut down on a lot of commutes and encourage people to spend money in their local establishments, both of which help the local economy.

Paul Albrighton - April 14, 2010 Reply

This is a great idea, and I hope more developers can find ways to this close to the core of Downtown Vancouver. We do have a large shortage of affordable rental housing in Downtown. Recently looking with a friend for options under $1000/mn, they were left with very old and tired places which were very unsightly. Small but stylish always works! I look forward to more developments like this, both for rental and sales.

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Lee Lussier - December 20, 2011 Reply

In Europe, these are apartment-hotels and are very popular with businessmen, students and tourists. In fact, you may have stayed at an aparthotel and not even realised that your hotel apartment room was owned by an individual. Major Canadian ski resort hotels are now marketing their units to prospective investors as well.

PatC - January 28, 2013 Reply

I chose to sell my bigger condo and trade down to 335 sq ft 6 years ago. After some trips to Berlin and Paris years back, the idea of a one/room condo in a downtown neighborhood really appealed. I hoped at the time it might catch on , though as a former semi- horder it takes constant editing. Luv it

Roger - July 21, 2014 Reply

I think 300 sq feet is far too much. We should rent a tiny “drawer” with a mattress for sleeping at night and have access to a tiny, costly storage space.

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