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Homes smaller than a two-car garage would fit in densely populated North Van: developer

If one-bedroom suites were smaller than two-car garages, would that help make Metro Vancouver housing more affordable?

“The idea of having small units in one building that looks like a single-family home almost is quite interesting,” said North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto.

The mayor was referring to a recent pitch by developer John Kay, whose company would like to fit 12 to 15 living units into a three-storey building on a near-standard sized lot of measuring 50 feet by 100 feet.

The ‘micro homes’ would be as small as 375 square feet, and according to Kay, would combine the “urban convenience of a Smart Car with the affordability of Ikea.”

“It’s not for everyone,” says Vancouver planning and development consultant Michael Geller. “If well-designed, small spaces can be very livable.

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The proposal that Kay put to the City of North Vancouver council included one-bedroom suites that would start at $165,000, including appliances.

Smart design would allow two bedrooms in 450 square feet that would sell for $199,000.

Kay believes the concept can work in relatively urban areas close to amenities and transportation. The densely-populated Lower Lonsdale area could be particularly appropriate, which is why Kay made his pitch to North Vancouver.

The target market would be singles or small families, people downsizing or just starting out and looking for something economical.

North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto said city staff have been asked to prepare a report on such a project.

But the project would require rezoning and the entire process that goes with it.

“He’s got a long way to go yet,” said Mussatto. “But we don’t want to discourage people.”

While the homes might seem small for the North Shore, Geller pointed to already-existing, smaller residences — although both are rentals.

Units in the Burns Block in Vancouver’s trendy Gastown range from 270 to 340 square feet while the majority of suites at 600 Drake St., closer to downtown, are around 330 square feet.

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Many Metro Vancouverites already live in small spaces on boats and motorhomes.

There are also compact condominiums.

Surrey has approved the Balance project in its city centre with what developer Tiensher Group calls ‘Canada’s smallest condos.’

The most ‘micro’ of the suites is just 290 square feet and has a price of $109,900. There are a total of 56 suites in Balance, with the largest being 600 square feet.