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Micro Loft Tiny Apartments in Vancouver Rent for $850 a Month, Under 300 Square Feet

The thirty tiny apartments at 18 West Hastings Street are ideally located for young professionals who otherwise couldn’t afford to live downtown in notoriously expensive Vancouver, Canada. On the flipside, this new residential complex is located in a downtown neighborhood known for low incomes and high crime rates.

The Burns Block building that now offers micro lofts measuring less than 300 square feet used to provide cheap housing as a single room occupancy hotel. The new complex offers compact, high-end apartments for the up and coming but is it at the expense of the down and out?

When the building opened on December 19, the designers revealed the transformation from sketchy hotel to high-end housing complex. Politicians and supporters of the project cite it as part of Vancouver’s affordable housing strategy and claim creating mixed income neighborhoods is the best way to improve the area.

Vancouver's Micro Loft Tiny Apartments

Photos Courtesy of Bruce Carscadden Architect

However, the renovation caused a stir among housing activists in the area who claim it is a clear sign of the classist gentrification occurring in the poorer parts of downtown Vancouver. Opponents of the new building fear it is a tactic to force out existing residents rather than providing the social services that the neighborhood needs. They cite the West Hastings building is one of the first major signs of gentrification in the downtown eastside.

Vancouver's Micro Loft Tiny Apartments

The micro loft complex is one of the few non-subsidized housing opportunities in the neighborhood. Each unit ranges from 226 to 291 square feet and comes furnished with a fold-down bed, compact appliances, a flat screen TV, a sofa, several chairs and a coffee table. High ceilings and prominent windows make the tiny living spaces cozy. At $850 a month, including cable TV and internet, the lofts are actually notably inexpensive compared to other comparable Vancouver apartments.

Before the Burns Block building was condemned, it housed a seedy hotel known for housing sex workers and drug addicts. Next door, a non-profit home for sex workers, drug addicts and people with terminal illnesses reminds micro loft tenants that this is still a gritty part of downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver's Micro Loft Tiny Apartments Vancouver's Micro Loft Tiny Apartments Vancouver's Micro Loft Tiny Apartments Vancouver's Micro Loft Tiny Apartments

Photos Courtesy of Bruce Carscadden Architect

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Written by Newt Stremple for Tiny House Talk

Sources: http://carscadden.ca/#1885235/18-WEST-HASTINGS-MICROLOFTS (architect), http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/01/10/vancouver-micro-lofts-a-small-world-after-all-2/ (article), http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/12/19/bc-tiny-apartments.html (video)

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 34 comments… add one }
  • January 23, 2012, 10:01 am

    This project is interesting because they made use of a current building and turned it into something people want to live in. It’s too bad it’s in the middle of such a bad area, etc. If this were done in a less populated city, I imagine the rent would be more affordable. If the price were in line with what I pay right now, it would only cost $450/month or so if that were in my area. That would be a nice option to have.

  • Avatar Kevin
    January 23, 2012, 11:37 am

    Nice layout, except for that poor green couch stuck in the corner. Utilizing high ceilings and wide plank flooring makes any size space feel larger and less cluttered. Sometimes it would be nice to see something that is “NOT” homage to IKEA though; they all seem so sterile and commercial to me. Light woods and soft colors can easily make any home more cozy and warm, no matter the size of it. Tossing in a plant or two is always nice. Hmmm… Perhaps that’s the reason for the green couch?

    • January 23, 2012, 3:03 pm

      You’re right- it is missing that natural touch. The flooring is really nice looking though. Thanks, Kevin!

  • Avatar Kat
    January 23, 2012, 12:22 pm

    Great idea, but they could have used something that didn’t smack you in the face as institutional. I would feel as if I were in prison or hospital in such a glossy, sterile looking place. In a smaller city it may be more affordable (I still could not afford this!) and maybe in a bit safer neighborhood? Great idea ~ not so great looks. Don’t mind the Ikea thing so much, but they DO make items with color!! Even some wood tones in the cabinetry would make it more livable. But, at least someone is trying!! That’s a great start!

  • Avatar Susan G
    January 23, 2012, 12:30 pm

    Ikea has some brilliant small space solutions… affordable too… too bad this is in such a bad area… but this is a great idea for all those empty office buildings just sitting there…for all it includes the price isn’t that bad…

    • January 23, 2012, 3:05 pm

      Susan- I hope we see more developers doing this with unused office buildings, etc. That’s something that’s always been on my mind.. To make use of what’s already out there. And this is a great way to do it.

  • Avatar sesameB
    January 23, 2012, 4:08 pm

    The thirty tiny apartments at 18 West Hastings Street are ideally located in notoriously expensive Vancouver, Canada. Nice article, but I would NOT trade my tiny home surrounded by woods in rural south central sunny Arkansas for a well paying job to live in a tiny apartment in any noisy, crowded, smelly city, in North America. Just like the inmate in this article, who enjoys his scenic views, I enjoy my views of the woods of Arkansas as well as the smells–
    Hard Time In Greenland Isn’t Really That Hard Arctic Inmates Roam Free, Hunt Seal, Buy DVDs; Victims Are Crying Foul By GAUTAM NAIK Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
    One common complaint is the lack of seal meat — an Inuit delicacy — in the prison fare. “They all come from different villages and they all want their seal meat cooked differently,” said Mr. Christensen. “It was too much, so we stopped it.” Sitting in his room that overlooks a breathtaking vista of icy hills and the turbulent waters of the North Atlantic, Mr. Lindenhann, the inmate who bought the U2 film, says he dreams of “being free and going sailing.”
    Barefootin in rural south central sunny Arkansas

  • Avatar sesameB
    January 23, 2012, 4:13 pm

    I would feel as if I were in prison or hospital in such a glossy, sterile looking place, kats writes. I agree with Kat, also. However, as I have posted previously prisoners do tiny for a very long, long time in institutions, some with scenic views and other prisoners with no views at all from the cell. Other examples of folks living tiny, not necessary by choice, are the following from my own files, these are life lessons: Drayton Curry, 92, Nation’s Oldest Federal Prisoner: Obama AWOL On Clemency Request By Graham Rayman, published: Mon., Sep. 12 2011
    Drayton Curry, age 92, the oldest inmate in federal prison, could die there waiting as he has for the past seven months for President Obama to decide on his clemency petition. Mr. Curry has been living small, and it now wheelchair-bound and in poor health. Curry, who was born when Woodrow Wilson was president, is currently in a federal prison in North Carolina having served 20 years for a non-violent drug conviction. Another one is Canada’s oldest inmate back before courts at 87 Posted 3 years ago FROM 2012, I learned that Mervyn Breaton spent part of his 87th birthday in a place he knows all too well – the prisoner’s box. The rest of the rail-thin octogenarian’s milestone day was back behind bars, his second home for most of his long life. The Coldstream, Ont., man with a criminal record dating back to 1936 was in front of Ontario Court Justice Ross Webster on Tuesday facing another round of drug charges.H “I feel like I was born at that jail,” Breaton told Webster during his brief court appearance. Webster reminded Breaton they had talked about his criminal past before. In December, five months ago, and in front of Webster, Breaton was given an 18-month conditional sentence after pleading guilty to 12 drug related charges, mostly for selling OxyContin.The first six months were to be spent in house arrest. Until then, Breaton, who has resided in many prisons, including a stint at the infamous Alcatraz prison as prisoner No. 1254 for robbing banks, is back in custody. Over seven decades, he has been convicted of car thefts, weapons and drug charges, vehicular manslaughter and escaping custody. He may be about to break his own record. In 1998 and a youthful 77, he was believed to be the country’s oldest federal inmate when he was imprisoned for gun-running.
    Convicted rapist, amputee, 86, asks for release — As of 4/23/11 — Arkansas has seen its elderly inmate population skyrocket. Last year, the state system held three times as many inmates over the age of 55 as it did a decade earlier.
    Published: 4/23/2011
    PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — After more than four decades in prison, a convicted rapist confined to a wheelchair is no longer considered a threat. But despite one estimate that releasing Phillip Henson Sr. could save the state as much as $160,000 a year, it’s unlikely Arkansas’ oldest inmate will leave the prison system. A judge sentenced Henson to life in prison in 1966. The inmate, now 86, lost his left leg to gangrene years ago; his hands shake as he sorts through paperwork he hopes will someday lead to his release from a prison hospital. In recommending Henson’s release, one parole board member wrote that Henson “can’t hurt anybody else.” Another member, Joe Peacock, said he felt Henson wasn’t dangerous and didn’t need to be kept in prison at such a high cost.Peacock said he was told keeping Henson locked up costs $450 a day — which adds up to more than $160,000 a year. A Department of Correction spokeswoman did not confirm that amount, saying that the department relies on a contractor to cover inmates’ medical costs. Peacock said he considered a number of things before voting in favor of Henson’s release.”His age, his health, and the fact that he was costing the taxpayers money,” Peacock said. “When it goes up to $450 a day, all of those factors go into it.” Nationally, the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that elderly prisoners are the fastest growing segment of the national prison population, largely due to sentencing laws.”Part of it is that sentences have gotten longer,” said state Department of Correction spokeswoman Dina Tyler. “And part of it is the fact that many of these offenders return to their old ways, often times because of substance abuse.”
    Henson now lives in a prison hospital in Pine Bluff and is learning to use a prosthetic leg. The Department of Correction says he’s received one reprimand during his time in prison. Henson says prison saved his life and forced him to kick addictions to cocaine and heroin. “I was drug-infested at the time,” he said. “I have done a complete inventory of self. I know where I was wrong, when I was wrong, and now, why I was wrong,” he said.
    Last but not least from my files, on 18 June 2011, I read that India’s oldest inmate Brij Bihari Pandey was freed at 108 – It was reported that Brij Bihari Pandey took revenge on a rival who was made chief priest of a temple — A convicted murderer, who was India’s oldest inmate, has been released from prison at the age of 108. Brij Bihari Pandey, a Hindu priest, was serving a life sentence for the murder of four people in 1987, when he was 84. Officials at Gorakhpur jail in Uttar Pradesh state say Mr Bihari, who requires regular hospital visits, was freed on humanitarian grounds.As he is unable to walk, relatives carried him from prison to a waiting car.”It was getting difficult to take care of a 108-year-old prisoner,” said jail Supt SK Sharma. “We moved an application for his release and the court accepted it.”In 1987, Mr Bihari and 15 others – many of them his nephews and family members – killed four people over the appointment of a rival as chief priest of a Hindu temple.After a trial lasting more than two decades he was sentenced in 2009 but had to be frequently rushed to hospital and was mostly bed-ridden. As he was carried from the jail, Mr Bihari hugged fellow inmates, who placed a garland of flowers on him. Prison officials said he received the garland with a broad smile and said: “God is great. Thank you.”

  • Avatar Danielle
    January 23, 2012, 10:56 pm

    Great concept. Very nice space, maybe not the best location though! I can see these apartments catching on in big cities for affordable living. I’d rent one!

    • January 25, 2012, 2:39 pm

      Thanks, Danielle. I’d live in one too, just not there.

  • Avatar Dominick Bundy
    January 23, 2012, 11:49 pm

    This is something I’d be very interested in. but would rather own it as a Condo or a co-op..

    • January 25, 2012, 2:40 pm

      That’d be a great option.. to be able to own one. But again.. not in that area lol.

  • Avatar KimiErin
    January 24, 2012, 1:21 pm

    I work near-ish to these apartments. Bad bad area. Neat set up, but I think they should try doing this in the nicer part of town.

    • January 25, 2012, 2:40 pm

      Thanks for confirming that, Kimi. Have a great day!

    • Avatar Dominick Bundy
      January 25, 2012, 7:22 pm

      Hi Kim, But by doing what they are doing in that “bad” area. Is what makes the “bad” areas better areas…

      • Avatar KimiErin
        January 25, 2012, 7:38 pm

        I don’t understand what you are asking.

        What really needs to be done in that area is for it to be torn down and then rebuild with places like the above. not trying to put a chandelier in a haunted house. tear it down and start over. my 2 cents anyway.

        • Avatar Dominick Bundy
          January 25, 2012, 8:01 pm

          Okay let me explain, I wasn’t asking anything , but instead making a comment..There was a “bad area in my city as well.. With graffiti, boarded up houses high crime etc. A lot of these old buildings and homes had some historical history . And the bones of the places were in tact. So what happen People starting buying up the properties for as low as one dollar. And refurbishing them Which increased their value.by 500% in some case. So instead of tearing down Why not fix up if possible and restore to the grand old elegance of yesteryear..That’s all..

      • January 26, 2012, 11:20 am

        Good point Dominick.. Slow and steady improvements eventually lead it from “bad” to “good”. Can be controversial, though. Thanks!

        • Avatar sesameB
          January 26, 2012, 1:33 pm

          Alex & Dominick is 100% ci correct — slow and steady, case in point this book: Thinking, Fast and Slow [Hardcover] Daniel Kahneman (Author), this author is correct in saying this takes effort and hard work, which most people do not like it—slow thinking. Most of the time we think fast, and most of all we need to check. People do not take the time to check anything for truth.

        • January 26, 2012, 2:22 pm

          Thanks for the reassurance. I’ll have to check out that book. I love your references.

  • Avatar sesameB
    January 26, 2012, 9:21 am

    Case in point about living small on taxpayers MONEY in this country among prisoners: North Carolina Death Row Inmate Writes Letter About Life of ‘Leisure’
    2012, Jan. 26 —North Carolina Death Row Inmate Writes Letter About Life of ‘Leisure’ (ABC News)
    A convicted murderer on death row in North Carolina wrote a taunting letter to his hometown newspaper about his life of “leisure” in prison and making a mockery of the legal system. Danny Robbie Hembree Jr. was found guilty of murdering 17-year-old Heather Catterton in 2009 and was sentenced to death on Nov. 18, 2011. Hembree, 50, is on death row at Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C., but he’s not looking for any pity in the letter he sent to The Gaston Gazette. “Is the public aware that I am a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV in the A.C., reading, taking naps at will, eating three well balanced hot meals a day,” Hembree asked in the letter. “I’m housed in a building that connects to the new 55 million dollar hospital with round the clock free medical care 24/7.” He also asks if the public knows that the chances of his “lawful murder” taking place in the next 20 years, if ever, are “very slim.”

  • Avatar Carl in SC
    January 28, 2012, 4:20 pm

    For a long time I have thought of the many towns and cities that have a block, sometimes several blocks, of two story building and sometimes the second level is used nowadays for storage, if at all. Years ago they may have been offices for doctors, lawyers, and so forth, but are no longer used.
    In Jefferson, GA there is such a building with a drug store, pizza shop, and a few other businesses on lower level, but second floor seems unused since I looked inside. I thought “it would be a great idea if someone would make this space into several apartments to rent out?” Right in the heart of the downtown. There’s a nice balcony across the entire front which would be a great place to sit. The area is growing and I’m sure there would be people willing to either rent the apartments or buy them. So many towns and cities have such buildings and could convert the upper level/levels into good quality housing.

    • January 28, 2012, 4:54 pm

      Great idea, Carl. I agree, too, might as well turned unused space that’s already there into usable housing.

    • Avatar Patricia
      January 29, 2012, 5:20 am

      When I was in Paris, France recently I noticed that most of the dwellings are above businesses.

      • January 29, 2012, 8:05 am

        Where I live we have some condos like that, in the downtown area, but they are over-sized and very expensive, although beautiful..

  • Avatar Stan Wolf
    January 29, 2012, 9:52 pm

    Is that a dishwasher under the kitchen counter? Really? In such a tiny space, is the value of a dishwashing appliance really greater than additional storage? I hope this is at least optional…

  • Avatar sesameB
    January 30, 2012, 11:52 am

    I’m staying put in my tiny home in rural Arkansas, case in point: January 29, 2012
    Bridge’s Partial Fencing Points to a Bigger Divide
    The footbridge is, at first glance, unremarkable. It connects two sections of the Ingersoll public housing project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and its dull red walkway matches the brick apartment houses on either side. Underneath it are the roadway and bike lanes of Navy Street. Yet beyond the rusty chain links is a newly installed section of eight-foot-high fencing. The shiny metal reflects a fresh flash point in a swiftly changing neighborhood where luxury apartment towers have risen in the last few years. Last August, Stephen Arthur was riding home to North Park Slope on his bicycle when he was struck in the head by a brick thrown from one of the two ramps onto the footbridge. Though he was wearing a helmet, he crashed, tearing a ligament in his wrist and cutting his face. Mr. Arthur, a 44-year-old computer programmer, was not the first cyclist on the eight-year-old Navy Street bike path to be hit by objects that youths — for years, residents say — have been throwing from the ramps. But he was the first one to be injured seriously enough to press for something to be done. Mr. Arthur seemed to indicate that his experience was not isolated. Yana Walton said children threw small rocks at her about a year and a half ago; she was rattled, but uninjured. “I glance up now and see if anyone is on the bridge,” said Ms. Walton, 29, of Prospect Heights. “Maybe the parents don’t know what’s going on,” she said. Ms. Vinson, a mother of five boys, said that engaging restless children was what was needed. “That’s what they need around here, more activities for kids,” she said. “That’s the problem.”

  • Avatar sesameB
    January 30, 2012, 12:19 pm

    In tight local market, no relief for renters, apartment hunters (Jan. 2012) “Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said recently that the federal government should help developers convert large groups of foreclosed homes into rental properties as a way to cut rents and improve blighted neighborhoods. “There is this oddity, we have rents going up and all these vacant homes,’’ he said during a meeting with Globe reporters and editors.”
    This is such a true statement. So, very true! In 1993, Lorraine, Marie, wrote a nice article, “New role for a grand old home, built in 1980’ with an accompanying photo of Lucy Underhill in the Statesman-Examiner newspaper from Colville, Washington.
    Ms. Marie wrote: “The two-bathroom, four-bedroom, two story house would normally rent for $650 to $700 a month in Colville’s tight rental market, but, owner Lemehaute recently decided to try a different idea, the home shared concept. Each person will be renting a bedroom and sharing the rest of the house. Dr. Joe Leadon, who responded to the idea, already had a history of shared living arrangements. Dr. Leadon, now 61 yrs. old, (and still practices medicine in the state of New York), said, “I had a similar experience. The owner of a shared home he lived in was an elderly person. He helped his older friend with chores, and did her grocery shopping. This can keep older people independent a lot longer, and it’s also good mind stimulation for both age groups, Dr. Leadon noted. He continued in this article to say that in his previous shared household, Leadon observed another housemate go through the changes offered by shared living. ‘he’d been kind of down, but the companionship perked him up’, the doctor added.”

  • Avatar Carl in SC
    January 30, 2012, 12:36 pm

    Grand idea indeed. Decades ago in the small town of Anderson, SC my grandmother and a couple of sons rented the upstairs level of a two story home and two older ladies lived in the main level. Not sure if the upper floor had a kitchen or if that was shared in the lower level. It was right in town and convenient to shopping, churches, drugstores. Besides the idea of converting upper levels of business blocks into housing this is another way to do it.

    • Avatar sesameB
      January 30, 2012, 2:47 pm

      thanks from rural Arkansas. Have a nice, sunny day outside, too.

  • Avatar sesameB
    January 30, 2012, 4:21 pm

    “Not long ago, Clark spoke at a Bedford Hills event. Her theme was the Book of Jonah. Like Jonah, she told the audience, she had spent years in self-destructive behavior and had been cast overboard into a stormed-tossed sea for her actions. Like Jonah, she found rescue in the belly of the whale, in her case behind bars. “In prison,” she said, “I learned who I was.” January 12, 2012 Judith Clark’s Radical Transformation
    PS: Living small over a long period of time, not by choice, can force one to discover themselves as indicated by Ms. Clark.

  • Avatar sesameB
    January 30, 2012, 6:17 pm

    Some old homes, need to be torn down, case in point: Former warden reflects on life at his old home
    By JENNY MICHAEL | Bismarck Tribune | Posted: Saturday, January 28, 2012 When the 115-year-old warden’s home at the North Dakota State Penitentiary is removed from prison grounds this year, it won’t remove just a piece of North Dakota history. A piece of the family history of the wardens who have lived there also will be gone. Tim Schuetzle and his family moved into the house in 1991, when he became warden of the prison. His children were 7, 6 and 2 years old. “My daughter, that’s all she remembers is living there,” he said. Schuetzle was the last warden to live in the house, which the North Dakota Legislature approved building in 1897 for $3,000. An 1898 report from N.F. Boucher, who became warden in 1897, said the house was needed due to the cramped quarters shared by officers at the prison. He and his family moved in around Feb. 1, 1898. “(T)he interior of the same is upon plans made by me: while the detailed plans and specifications were made by Arthur Van Horn of Bismarck,” Boucher wrote. Van Horn also designed numerous other Bismarck buildings, including the Belle Mehus Auditorium, the Mason Apartments and the Prince Hotel. The house was built by brick made by prisoners in the facility’s brick plant and was constructed mostly by inmate labor, Boucher wrote. He estimated the house was worth at least twice what the state had paid for it. From 1898 until 2010, it housed the men who ran the prison. Current warden Robyn Schmalenberger, the prison’s first female warden, is the first warden since before Boucher not to live in the house.
    Dick Frohlich, director of plant services at the prison, began working at the facility 33 years ago. At that time, the house “was in really bad shape,” he said. The roof had to be propped up to keep it from caving in, because the brick walls in the attic had begun kicking outward. In a 1982 story in the Bismarck Tribune about the warden’s residence, Barb Satran, the wife of former warden Winston Satran, gave the newspaper a glance inside her family’s then-living quarters. While wardens’ families could furnish the home as they pleased, including with antiques stored in the attic, painting or carpeting required prior approval from the state. Satran told the Tribune the history of the home was not a formally preserved thing; instead, wardens’ families passed down knowledge about the house and its contents. For instance, the 1982 story said it was believed that a staircase beginning at a back entrance had been used originally by servants going upstairs. The state paid $80,000 for an “energy retrofit” on the house in 1982, removing radiators that had heated the home with steam produced by the prison and replacing them with base-board heating. In 1987, the state spent $25,000 to turn a main floor bedroom into a kitchen, giving occupants the option of cooking upstairs rather than in the basement. Frohlich said prisoners still cooked meals in the basement kitchen for the wardens’ families when he started working at the prison. Even when he became warden in 1991, Schuetzle knew the house had seen better days. The old prison wall, made of the same bricks, hadn’t held up well by the time it was torn down in the early 1980s. “The insides were mush,” he said. “That’s kind of what the deal is with the house.”
    The Schuetzles lived in the home for 18½ years, until April 30, 2010. There were good parts and bad parts. He had no commute to work but could never truly be away from work, either. His kids liked living in the house, but occasionally parents of their friends would be uncomfortable letting their children go to sleepovers right outside the prison.
    Schuetzle said the department had someone estimate what it would take to fix up the home more than 10 years ago. The cost was more than $100,000 – more than anyone felt should be spent on the home out of taxpayer dollars. He understands why people wouldn’t want to see the historic home torn down. “For my family, it’s more than that – it’s personal,” he said. Schuetzle hopes that, if no one buys it to move, some of the items inside can be saved and used or auctioned off. He mentioned oak pocket doors, the staircases, trim around the entryways, stained glass windows and old telephones.
    Thinking about the longtime home being torn down is harder on his family than on him, Schuetzle said. He knows it wasn’t in great shape and that its position right outside the prison walls was difficult for security reasons. “I’d be sorry to see it torn down, but it really needs to be removed from where it is at,” he said.

    Living in rural south central sunny Arkansas

  • Avatar Mary J
    January 14, 2014, 4:14 pm

    Interesting to read the comments here. It would have been sad if this building had been pulled down – it’s done hard time and now it’s been renewed and that’s my take on it! The apartments do seem bland now but with people living there with their own furniture, books and art, etc it will transform the whole space.

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