I spent the night in a tiny 400-square-foot home in Austin, Texas

The development is a proof of concept for Casata, an Austin company that launched in 2020 and plans to build similar communities of tiny homes for rent throughout Texas and, eventually, across the country.

James Rodriguez / Insider

Casata says its next development will be in San Marcos, a fast-growing college town 30 miles south of Austin. At over 200 units, it will be much larger than the Casata Austin.

The company is also looking at developments in other Texas cities such as San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Waco, and College Station.

Cassata received its first residents in February, about a year after construction began. Of the 60 long-term residents’ housing units, only five are still available for rent.

Exterior of another short-term rental unit in the Casata . community

James Rodriguez / Insider

Homes range in size from 378 square feet for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit to 758 square feet for the largest two-bedroom floor plan. Each rental home has a covered porch, which also varies in size.

Monthly rents range from $1,400 for the smallest unit to $1,865 for the largest.

Forrest Hardy, who oversees technology, marketing and Casata’s short-term rental business, CasataStay, said the remaining units are expected to be leased in the next several weeks.

Casata is the brainchild of Aaron Levy, a local real estate developer who came up with the idea during the COVID-19 pandemic. I met him at my rental unit shortly after my arrival.

Casata CEO Aaron Levy sitting on a sofa in one of Casata Stay's short-term rental units.

James Rodriguez / Insider

Levy told me he wants to create a community of townhouses that offer privacy and convenience at accessible rental rates and with smaller footprints than the sprawling homes being built today.

He said he also wanted to create a sense of community that he felt was missing in the apartment complexes.

“You get a sense of your home and your individual space, but we really arrange a lifestyle that includes community involvement,” said Levy.

The skyrocketing price has made home ownership out of reach for many Austin residents, causing them to search for other options. Casata aims to help fill that need for housing.

The exterior of Unit 702.

James Rodriguez / Insider

According to brokerage Redfin, the median sale price for a home in Austin was $645,000 in March, up 21.9% from just a year ago.

Rents have similarly risen. According to listings site Zumper, the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Austin is $1,550, up 31% from last year, while the median rent for a studio is $1,290.

In Camden Shadow Brook, an upscale residential community located approximately 2 miles from Casata Austin, rentals for a 659-square-foot one-bedroom unit start at $1,459.

That price is roughly in line with the Casata house I’ve stayed in, but for a much more space.

But there are trade-offs. At Casata, I didn’t share walls with anyone, and I felt like I had a lot more privacy and outdoor space than I did in an apartment building.

Casata units are manufactured homes, which means they were built in a factory and transported to the site in Austin, where they sit atop steel frames.

The exterior of the small house of Casata.

James Rodriguez / Insider

Casata has partnered with Champion Homes, the manufacturer of home builders, to produce these units using pre-existing floor plans, with a few small modifications.

Levy said the homes in Casata Austin were built in a factory near Dallas, where each can usually be built in less than a week.

Future Casata communities can feature floor plans designed by Casata that use modular construction, meaning that they will still be built in factories but will sit on a foundation, like a traditional home, and meet the same building codes required for site-built homes.

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