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Tiny Homes 400 Sq Ft
I spent the night in a 400 square foot tiny house in Austin, Texas that I rented for $1,480 a month. It’s easy to see why people choose this over an apartment in this red hot home market.
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This 400-square-foot microhome is one of 66 new units at Casata Austin, developed by a local startup revolutionizing rental housing. James Rodriguez / Interior
I recently spent a night at Casata Austin, a new community of 66 microhomes for rent. One of the most popular housing markets in the country, offering an alternative to traditional houses and apartments.
6 acre community located in a quiet neighborhood 20 minutes south of downtown Austin. When we arrived at the development site on a rainy April morning, we found a row of dark green houses surrounded by lush oak trees, creating a wild environment.
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The development represents a proof of concept for Cassata, an Austin company founded in 2020 with plans to build similar rental microhome communities across Texas and eventually the United States.
Cassata says its next development will be in San Marcos, a fast-growing college town about 30 miles south of Austin. With more than 200 units, it is larger than the Casata Austin.
The company also has operations in other Texas cities, including San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Waco and College Station.
Casata welcomed its first residents in February, almost a year after construction began. Only five of the 60 units intended for long-term residents are available for rent.
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Homes range in size from 378 square feet for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom to 758 square feet for the largest two-bedroom floor plan. Each rental home has a covered porch and varies in size.
The rest of the units are expected to be leased in the coming weeks, said Forrest Hardy, head of technology, marketing and Casatest’s short-term rental business.
Casata has six units for short-term rentals that are listed on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo. I stayed in one of these units. The interior space is 400 square feet with one bed and one bathroom.
Hardy said Casataste could be spun off as its own business and that short-term rental units could make up a large portion of future Casataste developments.
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Casata is the brainchild of local real estate developer Aaron Levy, who came up with the idea during the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon arrival I met him at the rental unit.
Levy told me he wanted to create an independent housing community that offered privacy and comfort at affordable rents and had a smaller footprint than the sprawling homes currently being built.
He wanted to create a sense of community that felt missing in the apartment complex.
“You get the feeling of your own home and space, but we’re really curating a lifestyle that connects the community,” Levy said.
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Rising prices have left many Austinites unable to afford homeownership, forcing them to explore other options. Casata aims to meet your housing needs.
Austin’s median home sales price reached $645,000 in March, up 21.9% from a year ago, according to brokerage Redfin.
The rent has also increased. The median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Austin is $1,550, up 31% from a year ago, while the median monthly rent for a studio is $1,290, according to listings website Jumper.
Rents start at $1,459 for a 659-square-foot one-bedroom in Camden Shadow Brook, a luxury apartment community about two miles from Casata Austin.
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It’s about the same price as the Casata I live in, but the square footage is much larger.
But there are also trade-offs. At Casatta, we didn’t share a wall with anyone and felt like we had more privacy and outdoor space than in an apartment building.
Levy said Casata expects to have 30 to 40 communities in the next five to seven years, representing a portfolio of about $1 billion. The company’s backers include WeWork founder Adam Neumann’s family office, he said.
Casata units are considered manufactured homes, meaning they are built in a factory and transported to a site in Austin, where they are placed on a steel frame.
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Casata partnered with homebuilder Champion Homes to produce these units with some modifications to existing floor plans.
Casata Austin homes are built in factories near Dallas and are typically built within a week, Levy said.
Future Casata communities will use floor plans and modular construction designed by Casata. This means the communities are still factory-built but installed on the same foundations as traditional homes and meet the same building standards required for site-built homes.
Short term Casa style units are fully furnished. My unit was very similar to other Airbnbs I’ve stayed in, with a muted color palette with pops of color.
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The living room features a built-in entertainment center and an expandable counter that doubles as desk space. It’s not the most attractive desk I’ve ever seen, but it’s a nice touch in this age of working from home.
A window above the kitchen sink will make your home feel less cramped. The kitchen had ample cabinet and counter space and was more functional than expected.
As space is at a premium, kitchens are abandoning ovens and using convection microwave ovens or a combination of microwave and convection ovens.
What I love most about this home is the abundance of natural light and greenery. The window above the bed lets in light and provides privacy.
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The back porch of my unit had a few chairs and a small table, which I thought would be the perfect setting for a warm Austin evening.
There was a community garden next to my unit where the residents were growing various vegetables.
Adjacent to the park is a shaded area with picnic benches where Casata plans to host community events. Known as the “Campus Alchemist,” Cassata is dedicated to managing staff activities.
On a stage adjacent to the community area, Casata will host fitness events such as yoga classes and live music.
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At the heart of the Casata community is an amenity center with a pool, co-working space and gym. When I got there, it was in the final stages of construction, but I decided to take a look.
Rent-to-build communities like Casata, where developers build single-family homes and rent them rather than sell them, are becoming popular in Austin. Many properties have multifamily amenities like pools.
The amenity center’s assistant area included reconfigurable lounge furniture as well as desks and nooks for people to do their work. Adjacent to it was a conference hall for meetings.
Residents who need more space to store their belongings can rent storage space at this warehouse located across from the amenity center.
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When I arrived the community was powered by two generators (one of which is pictured above), which Kasata will be able to connect to the main grid in late April. Until now it was used as an alternative.
In the evening I met Vicky Restani next door. She is a 71-year-old semi-retired nurse from California who rents a two-bedroom Casata with her dog, Kia.
Restani’s 758 square foot floor plan is the largest floor plan at Casata Austin and you’ll feel it right away. The vaulted ceilings and spacious layout make it feel like a traditional single-family home, but it’s still compact.
Restani bought a 2,000-square-foot house about four years ago when she moved to the Austin area from San Francisco. But last year, when her monthly property taxes increased by $1,000, she knew she had to move.
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In February 2021, Restani showed her an ad for Casata Austin, and she signed the lease without seeing anyone. Because she was one of the first to sign up, she pays $1,570 a month, which includes updated internet, utilities, trash, storage and pet fees.
Restani said living at Casata is “completely different” from apartment complexes she’s experienced.
“I feel like I have a home,” Restani said. “People go out and see each other and interact. In my experience at the apartment complex, that hasn’t happened. People just go on with their lives.”
“I had to let go of a lot of things that had been around for a while,” Restani said. “But once I started, it was really good. I literally felt lighter.”
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Casata won’t solve Austin’s affordable housing crisis. but
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