Paul Liberatore

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Micro life — Does size really matter?

Shelley Fralic: Micro life — Does size really matter?

A tiny show suite in the sales centre for Evolve, a 35-storey 406-unit condo that will be developed in Surrey by WestStone Group.

After a lifetime of living large, there comes a time when one realizes that size — at least on the bricks and mortar front — really doesn’t matter.

And so you find yourself chatting with anyone who will listen about how, at some point, you might join the downsizers, trading stairs, vacuuming and never-ending maintenance for a cosy little flat and a simpler lifestyle.

Turns out that while you’re contemplating a smaller life as yours winds down so, too, is a much younger generation whose lives are just winding up.

In case you hadn’t noticed, micro living is the new yoga.

Tiny houses. Float homes. Caravans. Laneway houses. Shipping containers. Yurts. Mobile homes.


And, of course, micro lofts, those closet-free, can’t-swing-a-cat, one-room condos that are the current darling of developers, and of earnest millennials, evidenced by the numbers of buyers and open chequebooks throughout the region at the mere sniff of new micro development.

Last weekend, the prospect of an affordable ($94,000, which in Metro Vancouver is an outright steal for anything with plumbing) 316-square-foot “micro suite” in a new 35-storey Surrey development called Evolve had prospective buyers lining up around the block.

Not surprisingly, many of the buyers snapping up the micro units were single and young, often upgrading from a bedroom or basement in their parents’ home and not averse to living in a modern space that isn’t much larger than the average master bedroom if it had a sink and mini-fridge.

“We’re finding, especially with a younger group of buyers, they don’t seem to collect as many things as older buyers do, they like to collect experiences,” is what Evolve spokesman Bill Morrison told CTV.

Well, that’s great. But then, we all started out that way, didn’t we?

Single, young, idealistic and committed to the simple life, bunking with buddies, our possessions easily transported in the trunk of a Toyota.

The tiny living trend is nothing new elsewhere in the world, of course, especially in highly densified urban cores like New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong, where 100-square-foot apartments aren’t unusual.

But in Metro Vancouver? Not so much. Generations of locals have grown up in roomy houses and apartments, with big rooms and yards and gardens, and so this transition to the tiny has come as something of a shock.

To guide us through the bewilderment is the increasingly urgent message, from developers and others who have a vested interest in shrinking floor plans in direct proportion to rising real estate prices, that small is better because it forces us to be selective and thoughtful, to live within our means, to save on energy and building costs.

And they might well be right: Living in a smaller footprint means there is less to clean, less to store, less to maintain and less debt. Less guilt, too, especially for a green generation committed to the eco-friendly life.

Sacrificing space, we are being told, also provides more time for those all-important “experiences,” though some of us aren’t exactly sure what that means and wonder if maybe it’s what we used to call life.

Anyway, it all sounds good. On paper. In theory. And we’re all for any clever option that gets first-time buyers and the ever-increasing numbers of singletons into the housing market, because you have to start somewhere and why not in a Murphy bed.

So we applaud Metro Vancouver’s new pioneering micro lifers, though wonder what happens once they couple up, have kids and suddenly need space for the stuff they didn’t think they’d ever need but now can’t do without. Like Lego.

Because this much we know is true. The longer you live, the more footprints you create. And footprints need shoes. And where do you put those shoes when there is no closet?


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