I hear the same complaints whenever a new condo building is proposed. They include the whine “there are no three bedroom units”, “too small” and “too expensive”.
Just maybe the developers are right, that the market needs small homes, especially starter homes. And maybe neighborhoods should realize they need a diversity of housing types, including purpose-built smaller units for smaller family sizes, rather than old houses cut up into a warren of cheap rooms. Consider that most “marriages” (formal or informal) break up and its rather silly to expect both parties to then occupy two large homes, so divorcee’s are a market too. And young (or elderly !) singles may not need or want a ground-oriented house.
The first time I went to Paris, back in the last century (the 70’s), I was intrigued by the small size of Paris apartments. In my 19th arrondissement neighborhood the ones I saw were essentially bed-sits. My particular one had the toilet & bidet & sink (no shower required when there is a bidet) in the front entry of the apartment. That’s right, the hall door opened into a miniscule bathroom, then another door opened into the single room apartment (the building was somewhat elderly and the plumbing had been retrofitted).
Did I mention I was also a half block from the outdoor abatoirs? It was an interesting neighborhood.
Anyhow, I was intrigued by the suitability and acceptability of this small apartment. Because no one had a TV in their room, or even a kitchen. Essentially, the apartment was for love (it was Paris, after all) and sleeping. Living was done in the cafe’s along the street, along the boulevards, and the park at the end of the street.
Maybe it seemed so acceptable because I was a student, and unused to having a whole functioning apartment with a suite of rooms to myself.
I also notice that on each return to Paris, the apartments and the hotel rooms seem to get bigger, as old single rooms are bashed together to make bigger spaces.
It hasn’t escaped me that condo apartments in North America are getting smaller. Some are very small. Vancouver, as usual, is the leader in Canada, with some micro apartments getting lots of press last year.
And now NYC is getting into the action : http://observer.com/2012/07/would-you-ditch-your-squalid-share-for-a-300-square-foot-micro-apartment/
Some Ottawa developers have been floating the idea of micro apartments to community associations for some time. These micro units would be for a single person, and come fully furnished right down to the linens, and professionally decorated. All aimed at the single male techno-nerd moving upscale from the parent’s basement. As of yet, none of these local developers have actually built any of these units, that I know of. And, for reasons elaborated on below, I think a scattering of a few micro units in a larger condo building won’t work.
My kid is home from Uni, where he lives in a dorm room. It’s actually large by my outdated uni dorm standards, but what interests me is how satisfactory it is to him. It is convenient to fellow students and all his friends. The dorm room functions because there are common lounge or living room spaces, and many cafeterias/restaurants.
My parents now live in a retirement residence. It’s pretty much like going to university. Their 522 sq ft two room apt is actually very large for the two of them, it would work just as well if one could lop off the first 10′ of the living room, making it a smaller 422 sq ft. apartment, or else made a bigger closet.
I used to stay over at the Journey’s End Suites at the airport strip in Mississauga. Those mini suites are a miracle of compact organization and neat space. I always wondered why they weren’t building something very similar as freestanding rental apartments. Now I recognize them as being essentially the same as the retirement residence apartments.
I talked to the corporation running my parent’s retirement residence, and asked if they had thought of providing a similar residence type aimed at singles or uni graduates starting out. I got an eager earful, that they were very cognizant of the market potential, but hadn’t yet been able to come up with a model that they felt would work.
I do recall that in California there are a number of privately-owned university residence corporations, including some run as “co-ops”, offering near-campus mini apartments or glorified dorm rooms. The one-room apartments are upstairs, the ground floor consists of a row of street front restaurants, usually a Subway , a coffee franchise, and some other franchises, and a storefront reserved for a non-franchise. These corporations are successful in getting market funded mortgages, breaking even on the rents, and providing affordable student housing. A number are now permitting graduated students to continue living there for some years. Naturally, the next step is non-student – student housing. We are back to mini apartments again. Just like the formula that worked so well in Paris from the 1880’s on.
My view now of mini apartments isn’t that they are tiny versions of a freestanding home so much as grown-up dorm buildings, ones that promote an exciting and active street life with cafe’s and restaurant social life.
They are the exact antitheses of the suburban McMansions that attempt to replicate the entire urban experience within their own (boring, sterile) walls with the home theatre, exercise room, den/bar, showplace celebrity kitchen, etc.
As a society, we will have made a sea change when CHEO starts offering mini condos as a prize instead of those oversized McMansions they now try to fob off as desirable dream homes.
Bring on the mini condos! Let Claridge or Mastercraft try copying the California model that seems to work there, and see if it will work in staid wintery Ottawa. I can see those selling well on lively west side streets like Somerset or West Wellington; or in the Rideau Street area.