At only 270 square feet, “micro-lofts” are being hailed as the newest innovation in tiny living – and a way to live affordably in the most expensive city in Canada.

The units, hailed as the smallest self-contained rental apartments in Vancouver, were unveiled by developers in the city’s Downtown Eastside Monday morning.

It’s hoped the Burns Block at 18 West Hastings Street, a 1909 heritage building formerly used a single occupancy residency hotel, will help meet the needs of affordable rental housing in the area and revitalize Canada's poorest area code.

Rents start at $650 per unit – about $300 less than the average cost of a bachelor suite in downtown Vancouver. A recent study found Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) pegged the average rent at $979.

In Pictures: Meet the Micro-loft

The Burns Block suites come equip with a fold-down Murphy bed, galley kitchen and built-in shelving. An integrated workbench with built-in flat screen TV and folding kitchen table are both designed not to take up any additional space when not in use.

Jon Stovell of Reliance Properties says the developers hope this project will spur others.

“We wanted to do this out of our love for heritage buildings and also to experiment with a new prototype for housing we will feel will become very significant and often duplicated in the downtown eastside and elsewhere.”

Stovell says the suites are large enough for a couple to live in comfortably.

The project, approved by the city in 2008, is slated for completion in March 2011.

A study released Monday named Vancouver as the most unaffordable housing market in the world when median housing sale values are compared to median household incomes.

The Demographia International report looked at 272 metropolitan markets in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

The study suggested allowing more housing to be built on the fringe areas of urban areas to help keep costs low.