Buying a micro condo in Toronto was hands down the “best decision” Aram Hassanlee and his husband have ever made. They’re just steps from their respective workplaces and appreciate a simpler lifestyle rich in experiences.
“ We used to buy things that we’d end up storing but never using,” says the human resources professional. “Now we can use the money we used to spend on furniture and clothing on travelling and experiences.”
Hassanlee, 39, and his husband moved into their 559-square-foot, two-bedroom Smart Home condo at Queen St. W. and University Ave. in December. They forked out $451,000 for a corner unit that boasts expansive windows and a 144-square-foot balcony. “The design is smart so you don’t feel like the condo is small,” says Hassanlee.
While they’re not likely ever going to entertain friends there, that’s not a problem because they enjoy going out. They can also take advantage of building amenities like a party room and outdoor space if they choose. Unlike many condos, utilities are measured by unit so they pay attention to off-peak times to do chores like laundry to keep expenses to a minimum.
Smart House has garnered plenty of press since it was first announced in 2013 because its tiniest units at 289 square feet were to be the smallest condos ever built in Toronto and started at $239,900. Though its smallest suites appear as one space, they easily transform into living rooms and bedrooms, the developer assures. The units offer “a life of no clutter” for the “committed city lover, the weekday city dweller, the corporate drop-in,” Smart House notes on its website.
“Micro units are popular in major urban centres like New York City, Seattle and other places that wrestle with affordability,” says Cherise Burda, executive director of the Ryerson City Building Institute. Most apartment buildings in American cities are rentals and the monthly rent on micro units is typically 20% to 30% below market rates because rental prices correspond to unit size.
In a report called Rethinking the Tower: Innovations for Housing Attainability in Toronto that explores ways to solve Toronto’s affordability crisis, the City Building Institute suggests micro living could catch on in a city dominated by condominiums. Energy-efficient micro units also have the potential to offer savings in utilities.
“ The trick with micro units is to ensure they’re well designed so there’s no wasted space,” Burda says. “When they’re well designed with higher ceilings and lots of windows, you don’t feel cramped. The other challenge is that even though they can lease at lower monthly rents, market-based units are often more costly per square foot than a conventional apartment.”
If affordability is a priority, beware luxury micros with fancy finishes. Micro units typically range between 250 and 400 square feet and include an in-unit bathroom and kitchen. Design is key to their marketability. Many developments feature flexible furniture systems, high ceilings, large windows, built-in storage and/or convertible furniture like a Murphy bed.
“ They come in all different forms and sizes but the new trend is for efficient smaller spaces that are paired with amenities like storage, lounge and outdoor space and the opportunity to live in a central location,” Burda says. “ That means being able to get around on foot, two wheels or transit, which saves transportation costs.”
Certainly, micro units aren’t for everybody. “They can be particularly appealing to young people and small households. They realize their living room is outside their micro unit,” she says. “They’re more interested in what the city, the urban landscape and the public realm can offer them.”
By Linda White
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019