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300 sq ft of paradise?

Kelowna is trending smaller, at least when it comes to apartment sizes.

City council Monday gave rezoning approval for a proposed  24-micro-unit row housing development at the corner of Ethel Street and Glenwood Avenue.

This is the third such development given initial approval by council over the past number of weeks, totalling a little more than 300 suites.

The others given initial approval are near UBC Okanagan and on Dickson Avenue near the Landmark district.

A micro suite is an apartment that is less than 29 square metres or 300 square feet in size.

The apartments would likely fetch between $600 and $700 a month in rent.

As for the development on the table Monday, city planner Ryan Smith said it fits in well with the current neighbourhood.

Smith said the development does fit with the Official Community Plan for the area.

"This is an area that is in transition, and it isn't the first building of its type in the area. There is a redevelopment that occurred to the north with a mixed-use building that exists today," said Smith.

"It's a row house type building with a bit of a European character. Parking would be tucked in behind the building and would sort of mirror the parking lot of the building just to the north."

While council was generally supportive of the development, there were concerns over the sudden popularity of this type of housing and the fact developers of micro suites are not required to provide the city with Development Cost Charges.

DCCs are a per-unit charge developers pay to allow cities to provide infrastructure improvements such as roads and parks.

Smith said there may need to be a conversation with the province to make changes to the provision exempting developers of micro-suites from paying DCCs.

Coun. Luke Stack suggested the city review all issues surrounding micro-suites, especially if it appears they are going to become a trend in the city.

Smith said these types of suites are starting to pop up in larger centres, such as Toronto and Vancouver, where the housing crunch is pronounced.

However, he added staff is looking at a review of the overall concept of this kind of housing, pertaining to things such as parking, open space and common space requirements.

"We're still trying to build neighbourhood and build community and not build ghetto housing," said Smith.

"It's tough because every city is going to have a different experience. In Kelowna, we have a lot in the process, but what's that next step? We will probably begin a policy discussion with council and say these are the best practices that we could find across the country. How do we want to proceed?"

Stack added he liked the UBCO proposal because it provided some common areas.

He said if renters were provided just a small living area space with no common area to share, "I just wonder how liveable they really are."

Smith doesn't believe the micro-suite market in Kelowna runs very deep. "There are only so many people who really want to live in 300 square feet," said Smith.

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