B.C. developer introduces Canada’s smallest condos in Surrey

Apartments will start at 290 square feet and will cost about $650 a month

Surrey development company Tien Sher is hoping to build Canada’s smallest condos — starting at just 290 square feet — if its latest project is approved.

The project, called Balance, is a four-storey building containing 56 “micro suites” that will all include five stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors and a balcony. Sixty per cent of the suites in the complex will be 305 square feet or smaller, while the largest will be a 653-square-foot, one-bedroom condo.

Charan Sethi, president of Tien Sher, said he’s putting forward the proposal to create more affordable housing for people with average incomes.

The complex is part of the Quattro development, which is a seven-minute walk from the Gateway SkyTrain Station on 108th Ave. Sethi said that he often has people who want to buy into the Quattro development, but who don’t qualify because their income is too low.

“Real estate prices in the Lower Mainland are among the richest in North America. In cities like New York, Tokyo and Paris, they found a solution — build smaller, but build closer to amenities. We wanted to build suites that renters could afford to purchase — today,” said Sethi. “With suites starting at $109,900, if you can afford the $6,000 down payment and you make a salary of $17 per hour, we have a home for you.”

Sethi said monthly payments would be about $650 a month and would require an annual income of about $35,000. The suites come with an eight-foot linear kitchen, a shower instead of a bathtub to save space, and a closet that could accommodate a washer and dryer.

Similar studio suites that are 425 square feet rent for $750 to $800 a month across the street in the Quattro 3 building, Sethi said.

“There is an outcry by people making between $22,000 to $55,000 a year who do not qualify to buy a lot out there, but they want a piece of the action. They want their own home, rather than renting all their life,” Sethi said.

Peter Simpson, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association, said he thinks the suites will attract first-time homebuyers, investors and maybe even some empty nesters who want to keep their toe in the Metro Vancouver real estate market.

New mortgage rules limiting amortization periods to 25 years have made it tougher for people to qualify for mortgages, and may be contributing to the real estate slowdown in Metro Vancouver over the past few months.

“That has taken a big bite out the industry because now it’s even harder to qualify,” Sethi said.

The project still has to pass three reviews by Surrey city council, but Sethi says he has been working with city staff and council and the project has passed its first hurdle.

“So far there has been a good response from the city,” Sethi said. “It’s moving forward, and it’s a matter of going through the process.”

Simpson said he expects other builders will be watching the Balance project closely.

“This is an idea I expect to see emulated throughout the region in the years ahead,” Simpson said.

The suites do not include a parking stall, but buyers can buy one if they wish, Sethi said, adding that a co-op car will also be available in the complex.

Last year, the Burns Block building in downtown Vancouver was refitted with Canada’s smallest self-contained apartments, with suites between 226 and 291 square feet. The landlord renovated the building, which had previously operated as a single-room occupancy hotel, into suites that rent for about $850 a month. The Surrey project are the smallest independently-owned suites that Sethi is aware of in Canada, and sales are expected to start in January 2013.

Source: The Vancouver Sun



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