Nova Scotia

Demand growing across the Maritimes for student micro-apartments

As students in the Halifax area struggle to find apartments for the school year, one Nova Scotia company says its business model is the solution for a housing crunch in university towns.

As students in the Halifax area struggle with a housing crunch, one company says it has the solution

Jenna Deighan of Charlottetown moves into her micro-apartment in Wolfville. She says it was a bonus when she didn't have to move furniture from P.E.I. to Nova Scotia. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

As students in the Halifax-area struggle to find apartments for the school year, one Nova Scotia company says its business model is the solution for a housing crunch in university towns.

Micro Boutique Living owns buildings in Wolfville and Antigonish, and is developing another in Charlottetown. It offers tiny, furnished apartments with a big appeal: students can rent by the semester.

When school's out, the building becomes a hotel.

"I'm done at the end of April so I don't have to pay when I'm not here," said Jenna Deighan, a fourth-year student at Acadia who opted for a small, one-bedroom apartment.

The units are more expensive than typical student housing. The cheapest one is just shy of $1,000 a month for an academic lease.

But Deighan says she did the math. She didn't have to move furniture from her home in Charlottetown to Wolfville, and she won't be tied to a lease after she graduates next year.

The Micro Boutique building in Wolfville has 64 units. It operates as a hotel when school is out. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

She says that was enough to convince her, and several friends, to move into the same building.

"It feels like a more mature, and well laid-out dorm," she said. "Just to have a full academic term lease is something that other university towns should look into."

Nabhila Naatogmah is also ok with paying more. He says it's tough to find furnished places in the community.

It's his second year in the unit, and says if he didn't live there, he'd have to share a car with family or take the bus to get to Acadia.

"That would all add up in the end."

Nabhila Naatogmah has been living in his micro-apartment for a year. He says he was won over by the location, right by the university. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

The MicroBoutique journey has had bumps in the road.

A deal to develop in St. John's fell through, said owner Alyson Roberts.

The company was also involved in a legal dispute with the town of Wolfville over building codes.

"Everything is resolved," said Roberts. "There were some implementation things that we had to do that we complied with. We aren't actually able to speak about things because it's been rectified."

Now, Roberts says, the buildings are so popular there are waitlists.

Alyson Roberts owns Micro Boutique Living with her husband. She says there are now waitlists for the tiny apartments. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Once the company opens its doors in Charlottetown, they'll be on the hunt for their next move, she said.

"There's all sorts of places for expansion," she said. "We definitely are always looking for opportunities that are good markets. As we become more experienced within the model, we recognize where the good markets are."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

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