Will 'micro-condos' take off in Canada?
An artist's concept of the Smart House Toronto project (smarthousetoronto.com)
Published Sunday, October 6, 2013 10:26AM EDT
Do you think you could cook, eat, bath and sleep in a condo that's 300 square feet (less than 30 square metres) in size? Developers in Toronto are betting there are at least a few city dwellers who could, as they prepare to start construction on a new downtown building that features small units and small price tags.
These small living spaces -- dubbed "micro-condos" -- are already common in heavily populated cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York, and they now appear to be coming to select Canadian cities.
"Smart House Condos," by Urban Capital and Malibu, will be located in the city's Queen West neighbourhood, with a starting price in the mid-$200,000s for a 300 square foot unit.
Earlier this year, a development in Surrey, B.C., made headlines for its small size and even smaller starting price of $109,000 – a standout in the lower mainland's famously expensive real estate market.
Urban Capital partner David Wex told CTVNews.ca that "micro-condos" are part of a larger trend that's seen the size of living space shrinking in recent years.
Despite the small size of the Toronto Smart House units – most of which will be less than 350 square feet (32 square metres)—Wex says they'll offer homeowners more functional space thanks to "smart" and "efficient" design features.
"Over the last 10 years, condos in Toronto have become smaller in order to stay affordable, given land costs and construction costs," he said in a phone interview. "What we found is that while the condos were getting smaller, we haven't ever really redesigned the elements or thought about how we design the condos to be smart and clever in space usage."
To use space more efficiently, "big elements" like the kitchen and bathroom that "eat up" a lot of space have been redesigned, he said. For example, units will have stoves with two elements rather than four and a combined oven-microwave.
Additional space was found by rearranging pipe shafts and offering to sell furniture packages featuring pieces that can do "double duty,” he said, like beds that turn into a shelf or fold into the wall.
Wex admits he's not surprised when people balk at the small starting size of the units, but isn't overly concerned because the units are not meant for everyone.
"Canada is a huge country, but we're talking about downtown Toronto... one per cent of Canadians are going to want this, maybe 10 per cent of Torontonians," he said. "If you live in Trois-Rivieres or you live in Battleford, Saskatchewan, obviously this is not the product for you."
He admits that the price per square foot (which averages out to about $750) is on the high side, but says that when you look at the area it's not that out of line for what you get: a fully-functioning, "beautifully-designed" home.
He added that he's gotten lots of feedback from the public about the building, which officially launches on Tuesday.
"There's some people who think 'This is insane,' (and) 'Why would you want to live in that'… but it's new," he said. "We're innovative… and so you're going to get reaction."
He said Urban Capital and Malibu have plans for similar micro-condos in other cities, including developments in Ottawa and possibly in Montreal.