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Living small in the city

Adrian Crook hadn't always intended on raising his five kids in a three-bedroom condo in downtown Vancouver.

But skyrocketing real estate and rental markets across much of the country have some families choosing small spaces over suburban sprawl — and finding unexpected benefits.

Crook moved downtown from the suburbs following a divorce, craving the social connections that he says are more readily available in the city.

Now his family of six lives in a 1,000-square-foot condo in the heart of Vancouver, which Crook says allows them to live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle and gives him more time with the kids, aged 5, 7, 9, 10 and 11.

Living small has required some creativity, including custom bunk beds in a room shared by the three boys, but he says it also allows the family to easily walk to parks, galleries and libraries and teaches the kids about diversity that they may not see in the suburbs.

"They get a much more fulsome impression of the world and the possibilities. And hopefully develop empathy in ways that they might not if everyone was the same as them," says the tech entrepreneur.

Crook, who is running in Vancouver's fall election, says people have a mistaken idea that kids need a lot of space.

"They really want you around and you to love them as much as possible, first and foremost," he says. "And then they want creative, flexible things to do. They want to be left to their imaginations as much as possible and not have you control their reality.”

Canadians are increasingly shifting to smaller living. The number of people living in apartments taller than five stories went up more than 12 per cent between the 2011 and 2016 census, according to data from Statistics Canada.

The change was particularly noticeable in B.C. where the number of people living in single-detached homes dropped by 1.4 per cent, while the number of people living in apartments taller than five storeys went up by more than 23 per cent.

People outside of hot real estate markets are choosing to live small, too, including artist Shelley Vanderbyl, who lives with her husband and their three kids in a 950-square-foot home in Winnipeg.

Living small was never the plan, Vanderbyl says, but it's worked for the family, which includes a 15-month-old, a three-year-old and a six-year-old.

"My kids have always grown up in this space. It doesn't feel small to them. You sort of just get used to it," she says.

It also teaches children problem solving, creativity and conflict resolution, Vanderbyl adds.

"If you're angry at someone, you can't go somewhere and be away from them. You've got to sort it out. You just decide that you're going to get along," she says.



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