As we’ve proven again and again, you don’t need a lot of space to live comfortably. All you need is a little creativity and/or some good planning on the part of the developer.

Some folks might hear 226 square feet and think, “how on earth would I even fit in there”, but that’s the smallest sized suite in the Burns Block collection in Vancouver’s Gastown area and people are fitting in there just fine.

The Burns Block collection, a social entrepreneur project by Reliance Properties and ITC Construction Group, also happens to be made up of Canada’s smallest rental units, topping off at only 291 square feet. They’ve been dubbed “micro-lofts”, partly because they’re located in a restored heritage building and have been developed using innovative space-saving designs.

When it comes to real estate in Vancouver, we probably don’t need to tell you how expensive it can be. The Burns Block project is meant to increase the amount of affordable market rental housing in the Downtown Eastside. Average rent for a micro-loft is $850 a month and that includes furniture, cable and internet.

That’s not too shabby, especially when you consider that, according to the trusty CMHC, average rent for studio apartments in Downtown Vancouver is $850 per month. These are typically in older, unimproved buildings with zero amenities.

Burns Block tenant Andrea Wong works in her micro-loft. Photo courtesy of Richard Lam.

The micro-lofts are geared toward people making about $26,400 per year, so it really comes down to affordability. The rent is calculated at 30 per cent of gross income and the majority of occupants are between the ages of 25 and 35. But while affordability is key, residents don’t have to sacrifice comfort or suffer through cramped conditions for that sweet monthly rent.

The building features a rooftop garden, basement gym, bicycle storage and other enviro-friendly elements. To make the small suites work for everyone, the spaces include built-in pull down wall beds with integrated folding tables, flat screen TVs, compact appliances and built-in safes for valuables.

That all sounds pretty swell, however, the real sign that these small suites are working is that all of them were rented and occupied in September, only a month after the project was completed.

When it comes to affordable renting in Vancouver, it looks like these micro-lofts are the way to go. People can get embarrassed when they have guests over to their shoebox sized apartment, but when you’re living in the smallest rental units in Canada, your efficiently designed abode must be a point of pride.

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