Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Downtown Vancouver: Micro-Loft Living

I just read an article on CBC about micro-lofts in Vancouver, which will be 270 sq.ft. lofts that will rent for about $300 less than the average bachelor suite. I thought it was a fabulous idea, especially after watching this video a few weeks ago about a 344 sq.ft. flat in Hong Kong. These kinds of living spaces are everywhere around the world where space is at a premium.

Okay. Living in downtown Vancouver is expensive. That’s just the way it is. And if you insist on living downtown (or in Vancouver in general), you’re going to have to pay a premium. So it really makes me angry when renters complain about unfair living costs. It’s not unfair, it’s life. No one is forcing you to live in Vancouver. There are many more affordable options a little farther out – but still close to downtown, thanks to the SkyTrain.

Commentors on the article were complaining that the size of the micro-loft is too small and that it is too expensive. But that’s how much it costs to live in downtown Vancouver! Seriously. You can’t expect $600/month rent in the heart of the city. That’s just unrealistic and will never happen. So if you want more space for less money, move a little farther out.

These new Vancouver micro-lofts are expected to rent for about $675-750/month, which is still expensive IMO, but considerably less than the $979/month average rent of a bachelor suite downtown. But for about $700/month you can rent a 1-bed apartment in Burnaby, which will give you much more space than 270 sq.ft, and is only a short SkyTrain ride to downtown.

When I first moved to Vancouver, my 1-bed apartment on the outskirts of Vancouver was only $600/month, including utilities. My 2nd (bigger) apartment, a little farther out (but still on a SkyTrain line) was $725/month. Both of these options gave me the space I wanted at a fair price. The same space downtown would have cost me at least twice as much.

No, these Vancouver micro-lofts will not address low income residents. But it will address urban densification (which I am definitely in favour of), and alternative living space for those who really want to live in the downtown core, but don’t want to pay ridiculously high prices. It’s give and take. Do you want location, or do you want space? Because generally speaking, in the heart of most major urban centres, you cannot get both.

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. savings says:

    I couldn't do it. That is absolutely NOT enough space to live in! I would go nuts… it would be great for somebody single who traveled a lot for work and was hardly ever home though.

  2. Jeremy says:

    great idea. I agree with you 100%.

    Read another report that Vancouver is severely unaffordable… yet people line up to live there…. so umm, then it is very affordable. maybe too cheap! haha

    If I was young and single, that is where I'd live for sure if I wanted to be downtown.

  3. Anonymous says:

    That's barely even a hotel room. I wouldn't consider it.


  4. youngandthrifty says:

    lol! I was going to write a post about the 270 sq feet places for rent I saw today in the news! =) That picture makes it look so spacious, doesn't it? But it must really be just one room. They say the average space for one person is 400 sq feet. Seriously, I think some of the people living up one block in the Single Room Occupancies have more space than that!

    Did you also hear that they approved Downtown/Westend condo owners to build a wall and rent out 200 sq feet of their 700 sq feet apartment? That was a few months back, but i haven't heard anything else since.

  5. Shevy says:

    I think, however, these micro suites were originally supposed to be an alternative to SRO hotels for people on the DTES. The original idea was "a social entrepreneur partnership to help meet the demand for affordable accommodation in the downtown core" (as opposed to housing the homeless). In that case, rent should not exceed the shelter portion of what a person currently receives on social assistance.

    According to the Ministry of Housing and Social Development the maximum shelter rate for singles is $375/mo and for 2 people it's $570/mo. A Reliance Properties rep feels these suites could work well for couples. Perhaps they should market them at $570 then.

  6. Serendipity says:

    Some people aren't happy with whatever is presented to them. I hear it all the time from people who want to move from my small hometown to Las Vegas and gak at the prices. Its a major city people.

  7. Anonymous says:

    That does not seem that expensive to live downtown in a major city. Even if it is a small space. I've rented out small rooms in shared houses where the vast majority of my time was spent in my 150 suare foot room. I've only lived outside NYC and Wshington DC so my perspective is a little skewed.

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