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Tiny living units hit housing market

Shelley Mann, realtor and president of the Victoria Real Estate Board, sits on a couch in the living area of a 495-square-foot condominium in The Brix complex on Borden Street. - Don Denton/Black Press
Shelley Mann, realtor and president of the Victoria Real Estate Board, sits on a couch in the living area of a 495-square-foot condominium in The Brix complex on Borden Street.
— image credit: Don Denton/Black Press

Anyone living on the West Coast can count on three things in abundance: good sushi, perfect powder and sky-high real estate prices.

A crippling global recession combined with a persistent local housing bubble and overhauled mortgage regulations mean first-time buyers are working and saving longer than previous generations to sign a deed.

But hope may be on the horizon. Condo construction is flourishing in Victoria’s downtown core, as more than 1,000 units are set to come onto the market in the next two years.

While many buildings target downsizing retirees with spacious two-bedroom suites and views of the Inner Harbour, younger buyers are snapping up the studio condos intended for little more than sleeping and showering.

“Most buildings are putting two or three smaller units in to see what kind of momentum they get, but they certainly don’t want to put the whole building towards that,” said Shelly Mann, president of the Victoria Real Estate Board.

An experimental exception to this rule is the Janion building, an 1891 heritage structure at 1612-1614 Store St. set to open later this year.

The tiny studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, complete with Murphy beds and built-in furniture, have become a niche market of sorts for developer Reliance Properties of Vancouver.

While many potential buyers wait to see where condo prices will bottom out, Reliance is banking on the $110,000 starting price of the Janion microlofts to entice buyers. It’s a price point that simply doesn’t exist in Greater Victoria, Mann said.

“The marketplace defies imagination right now,” says Ken Kelly, Downtown Victoria Business Association general manager.

Kelly and his colleagues are working on a plan to revitalize the downtown core, and says a key component is getting new residents moving into the area.

“The prices are at such a level that people are looking at different avenues to satisfy demand,” he said.

The studio condominiums start at about 250 square feet, while micro one- and two-bedroom units range from 400 to 630 sq. ft.

But will the tight living quarters sell?

“I think the proof will be in the pudding,” said Kelly. “If the market doesn’t respond, I think we’ll see an increase in the size of the units.”

With the median asking price on single family homes in Greater Victoria hovering around $500,000, the Janion sales likely won’t disappoint.

At a glance

A quick look at residential developments. For a complete list, visit condosvictoriabc.com.

• At 21 storeys, Promontory by Bosa Properties will be Victoria’s tallest building – 176 studio, one- and two-bedroom suites, as well as townhomes and a penthouse. Completion slated for April 2014.

• Sovereign, 610 Broughton St., 36 luxury residential suites. Completion early fall 2013.

• Era by Concert Properties, 700-block Yates St., 157 suites. Completion November 2014, next phase of sales to resume in early 2014.

• Duet by Chard Developments, 640 Michigan St. 90 residential units. Broke ground February 2013, completion

scheduled for

fall 2014.

 

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