Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Another Brilliant Modular Housing Idea

If you’ve ever moved from one place to another, you’ve probably considered using a POD

What would happen if instead of packing up all your stuff, renting a POD, having it delivered to your new apartment in a new city and unpacking it you could simply have your entire apartment moved, lock, stock and barrel, to the new city?

Millennials would love it.

That future is just about to become reality in Austin, Texas. If Jeff Wilson, the founder of Kasita has his way, these modular apartments will begin popping up in major cities around the US and maybe the world.

I have to say, this is an idea that I could see getting legs and running quickly. Now let’s look at the man and his new company from an article in AustinLino
by  - Staff Writer

Jeff Wilson, founder of Kasita

Professor Dumpster is in a helluva good mood. He's got his shoes kicked off, and he's working with his team in the wide-open space they're renting in a renovated warehouse in East Austin that's more art collective than tech hub.

The space is huge. Large enough to hold a couple of the micro housing units, or Kasitas, that they're in the process of sending out to the world. But, for now, this is a big idea for transferable tiny homes that still hasn't hit the streets.

Kasita CEO Jeff Wilson, who tends to go by Professor Dumpster more often than not, is trying to not only start a company that sells tiny urban homes but also spur a movement toward more affordable, low-impact urban living.

"When you talk about disruption spaces, folks are usually talking about software as a service or talking about the latest dating app or another ride-sharing app," Wilson said. "We're not disrupting taxis here. We're talking about Maslow. We're talking about a very core need in all cities."

Austin, of course, is feeling that affordability crunch more than almost any city outside of New York City, San Francisco and Boston. Homes prices in Hyde Park, just north of the University of Texas, have increased 43% in two years, for example.

When a Millennial is ready to move, they simply hit the Kasita App on their Smartphone.

For Millennials, many of whom are strapped with student debt at levels unseen by prior generations, affordability and mobility are key. Meanwhile, homes continue to be one of the better places to park money and watch it grow.

But will that be the case with 208-square-foot dwellings that can be plugged into big racks, as Kasita plans?

Wilson said people need to see it to believe. He says it's kind of like the iPhone -- something people didn't know they needed until they started using one.

"I have a feeling, a pretty strong conviction, that when folks see these and walk into them and, on top of that see the price tag, and what it feels like to walk into a Kasita and use and live in one, demand is going to be essentially unlimited," he said.

Currently, Kasita has roughly 3,000 letters of interest from developers who might want to have a Kasita rack on their properties -- typically in or near downtown areas. The idea is to have developers purchase racks and individuals purchase Kasitas that fit into them. The developers would make money with homeowner association fees. And homeowners would own their Kasita, paying about $600 a month -- or about half of an equivalent studio in central Austin.

Wilson got the idea while he was a professor and dean at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin. While there, he started living in a converted dumpster with 33-square-feet of living space -- a move that not only made waves on campus but got the attention of national media, such as the Washington Post.

Wilson said it started as part social experiment, living on less and inspiring students to look at alternative living and energy use. It also became about finding the smallest imaginable space to live in -- the baseline of what it takes to live.

"So, on Nov. 15 of last year, I was just lying in the dumpster... about to fall asleep," Wilson said. "And I thought 'man, my life has actually gotten pretty good now that I have a little bit of AC and heat. I've kind of figured out how to organize this space. And I dealt with the the fact that it's a lot smaller. I'm in the hottest part of East Austin on east 7th. My rent is obviously very low, and I spend a lot of time outdoors and in the community and I'm able to spend disposable income on stuff that I like to spend disposable income on that I never had before.' And I essentially had a better life in a lot of ways. And I thought, 'the housing market is fucked, and we need a solution to it. And maybe there's something here.'"

He started by getting rid of the architects and engineers he had been working with. They were too entrenched in traditional thinking. Instead, he looked to his iPhone and its consumer-focused design, and he started working with world-class designers to formulate a new kind of home.

Kasita has raised roughly $1 million in funding, and it's eyeing a bridge round of funding before embarking on a Series A raise that should coincide with the installation of a rack and Kasita in East Austin, where the company owns some land. Wilson said he expects to show off the prototype this spring, perhaps around the time of SXSW.

I got a chance to check the prototype out with Wilson. Just walking in, there's a clear sense of minimalism and technological integration. It has a Nest thermostat, of course, but it also has adjustable wall panels that could accommodate all kinds of tech, which is part of Wilson's vision. It has speakers built into the floor and walls, and the queen size bed rolls nicely under most of the space below the kitchen counter and cupboards.

It's tough to say whether Wilson's movement will take off. But it's a big step forward in an area that hasn't seen a lot of innovation in decades. And, we may know sooner than later if the concept will take off.

"We're a lot further ahead than most people think," Wilson said.


Anonymous said...

I love the concept. My only concern is lack of financing and what happens if someone rents on in one city and wants to move to another city that either doesn't have one of those racks or there is no room for the module? There are a lot of questions still to answer.

Sonnenbrille said...

I'd like to see how much heat they lose out of the window area with metal framing in front up here in New England during the winter!

Anonymous said...

How much will it really save with transportation costs and the rent which will vary greatly city to city?