Space is in short supply in Matthew and Courtney Emerson’s two-bedroom Kitsilano condo. They would love to have a play area for their young son, office space for the adults, and room to grow if they decide to have another child.

But finding a three-bedroom unit in their price range of about $750,000 has been nearly impossible.

“They just don’t seem to be in the market,” Matthew said. “We find a lot of townhomes, which are great and we’d be happy to do that, if we could afford it. When we looked at three-bedroom condos, they just didn’t really exist.”

For developers like Beau Jarvis, there is an easy solution to the problem of finding affordable three-bedroom condos in Vancouver. All the city has to do, he says, is relax one simple rule in local bylaws: that every bedroom in any new home needs at least one window.

“It’s rooted in good intention from the policy side of it, and that is livability,” said Jarvis, senior vice-president for Wesgroup properties. “If we could change that and have what is called ‘borrowed-light bedrooms’ … we could easily make smaller three-bedroom units that would be more affordable.”

To demonstrate the idea, Wesgroup drew up plans for two three-bedroom condos in a wood-frame, mid-rise building: one that meets Vancouver’s current requirements, and one with an interior third bedroom that would capture light from the living room using a transom window.

In this first reckoning, placing all three bedrooms along the exterior walls would require an extra 264 square feet of space. If the condo were sold at a relatively reasonable $600 per square foot, that would add nearly $160,000 to the purchase price.

“If you were to use the standard of one-third of your income to pay for housing, that’s an additional $30,000 somebody needs to make in income,” said Brad Jones, Wesgroup’s director of development.

It is an idea that Emerson would consider if it meant finding something in his price range. As an architectural designer, he is well aware of the difficulties in designing a condo with three bedrooms on the exterior of a building.

“I think if it were designed appropriately, that it would be acceptable,” he said.

At least one Metro Vancouver city has already opted to allow this sort of design.

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