British Columbia

Kelowna sees 'overwhelming' demand for microsuites

Many people move to the Okanagan for the wide open spaces, but the City of Kelowna says there's big demand for something a little smaller: 314-square-foot micro suites.

“Vast majority” — more than 550 — being built close to UBC Okanagan

Worman's Ethel Street development accounts for the first 24 micro suites to be completed in Kelowna, although over 500 more are in the works. (worman.ca)

In Kelowna, increasing home prices and decreasing rental vacancy rates have the city looking for a small solution.

That small solution could be micro-suites.

Manager of community planning Ryan Smith says there are over 500 micro suite units approved or in construction in the city, defined as units smaller that 314 square feet.

"I think they're really part of the housing spectrum and a part that we haven't seen much of the last few years," he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. "If you're a single person, and even if you fly in and out of Kelowna, but you want a home base, but you don't want anything big and you don't want anything with maintenance, there really hasn't been a lot built."

So far only 24 micro suites have been completed, but Smith described the demand as "overwhelming."

Developers get cuts on development cost charges to incentivize micro units, but Smith says because buildings with these suites are being approved for established areas with existing parks and road infrastructure, the impact on city services is less pronounced.

"The impact is less than it would be if these were built further from the city centre," he said.

Smith says many of the units under construction are designed for rental housing, and the "vast majority" — more than 550 — are being built close to UBC Okanagan.

While small suites are new to Kelowna, in the Lower Mainland, it seems there's been an arms race for tiny space.

In 2015, developers trumpeted 316-square-foot apartments in Surrey, costing less than $100,000, as a great way to get into Vancouver's housing market. Other buildings have units as small as 248 square feet.

However, perhaps the project to take the (tiny) cake is UBC's "Nano Studios" project — student housing with as little as 140 square feet of space — about the size of a parking space.

With files from CBC Radio One's Daybreak South


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Big demand for tiny apartments in Kelowna, city says

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