12/19/2011 04:30 EST | Updated 02/18/2012 05:12 EST

Vancouver 'Micro-Lofts' Billed As Smallest In Canada

Flickr: Charleston's TheDigitel

A Vancouver developer has unveiled 30 "micro-lofts," which are under 300 square feet in size and are touted as the smallest self-contained furnished rental apartments in Canada.

They are in a newly renovated building at 18 West Hastings Street, across from Save-On Meats in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and were displayed Monday. The suites, which range in size from 226 to 291 square feet, go for an average of $850 per month, including cable and internet.

"I was looking for an affordable living space ... and the suite was perfect," said Lia Cosco, one of the building's tenants. "The unique allocation of space and the design concepts make the small space very inviting and comfortable to live in."

While the suites may seem microscopic to some, the developer says the units maximize the square footage by using built-in pull-down wall beds, folding tables and compact appliances.

'This is a homelessness strategy'

The city, along with developers Reliance Properties and ITC Construction Group, are billing the suites as "an affordable and much needed non-subsidized rental housing opportunity in downtown Vancouver."

However, that description doesn't sit well with a handful of protesters who stormed the unveiling on Monday.

"I don't understand how this is part of an affordable housing strategy," said demonstrator Ivan Drury. "This is not an affordable housing strategy. This is a homelessness strategy."

The project is in a previously abandoned building, which had been operating as a single room occupancy (SRO) hotel. Protesters are calling on the city to stop converting former SROs into brand new apartments, which are being marketed at a significantly higher cost.

However, Coun. Kerry Jang defended the project, maintaining it does fit in with the city's affordable housing strategy.

"Mixed neighbourhoods work best," he said. "It's because some people bring in the money, they live in these places [and] they end up subsidizing, keeping the businesses open."