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Whalley is the new Yaletown: Canada's smallest condos are in Surrey

Is a look at Canada's tiniest condos also a peek at Vancouver's future: small spaces in the suburbs?

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The idea championed by Balance is that home is where you hang your hat, while your life takes place elsewhere. (That's a pretty expensive hatstand, then.) As per the link above, Sethi noted, “We have to start thinking about what the next generation wants. It’s not what I want, or what some of you may want. The next generation wants a pad of their own that they can call their home. They don’t entertain at home ... their dining room is actually restaurants.”

Uh, no. If you make seventeen bucks an hour, I promise that you will grow very intimate with your kitchen, as dine-out prices in the Lower Mainland suggest that every night is most certainly not restaurant night.

(Also, I get the impression that Sethi predicts the next generation of Lower Mainlanders to be considerably smaller, less voluminous, than those of us who have already reached adulthood.)

There's nothing wrong with Balance's ethos: occupy less space, spend less money, live a fuller life. Makes sense to me. However, a tiny, isolated living space is by no means your only option. What about cohousing? What about a collective house? We already know what developers want. What do you want?

From trees to tiny apartments

Balance is to be built at what is now a copse of trees on the corner of Grosvenor Road and Whalley Boulevard. It should be done by summer 2014.

Balance: coming soon to Surrey

So, yes, it’s in Whalley, which has a bad reputation. Balance is part of a gentrification drive that the City of Surrey is encouraging: "bad" neighbourhoods have low property prices. Low property prices bring in low property taxes. Reverse that situation and profit.

Tien Sher is not new to Whalley. The Housing Analysis Blog has an article on the developer’s then-planned Quattro complex (Balance’s neighbour) titled “‘Yaletown’ planned for Whalley”. Besides Balance and the Quattro expansion, Tien Sher has yet another development on the go within spitting distance of its existing properties.

To an extent, Surrey’s reputation (let's be honest: its stigma) is partly the result of Vancouverites’ tendency to put on airs and graces compared to their suburban neighbours. We're total snobs, right? You see this in Toronto, too: look at how Torontonians describe Mississauga, Hamilton, and Etobicoke.

Is Whalley really unsafe, though? There was a time, yes, but not quite so much anymore. As of 2009, Gateway was only the system’s 8th most violent SkyTrain station, though it had fewer than half of the incidents reported at Broadway/Commercial. The type of crime also matters: Gateway had 12 acts of violence against others that year (assault, robbery, sex crimes), versus Broadway/Commercial’s 45.

Tien Sher is betting big on Whalley, and it's obviously not alone. On the walk from Gateway Station, I saw new construction after new construction, with giant cranes busily adding more in the distance, every which way I looked. The area around SFU is building up as quickly as those clockwork cities in the "Game of Thrones" intro.

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