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The co-founder of Airbnb is now making backyard tiny homes

He clearly understands the housing market!

Erika Mailman
Written by
Erika Mailman

In a smart pivot, the guy who co-created Airbnb is now on to his next entrepreneurial jaunt: building tiny homes in people’s backyards, as reported by the The Wall Street Journal. That’s Joe Gebbia, whose new company Samara is starting up in California, where housing stock is already low. The surge in use of ADU (accessory dwelling units) means that a decent-sized backyard can now take on the footprint of a tiny home (studio or one-bedroom), even one as small as 150 square feet. 

As the Journal reports, the tiny homes can house Americans who can’t afford a larger space—or they can be used as offices for those who are working from home and need separate quarters away from kids or the lure of the television. Samara’s homes are factory-produced and the price for the lower-end model of ‘Backyard’ is $289,000 for a 430-square foot studio space, while adding another 120 feet to make a one-bedroom unit increases the price by $40,000.

A light-filled interior of a studio shows a bed with purple bedding in a space that also includes a kitchen with small appliances, a kitchen table with two chairs, and an armchair. A short hallway leads to a glass door to the exterior.
Rendering: Courtesy Samara

Samara will help the homeowner with building permit procurement and installing the units. Best of all, solar panels on the roof should meet all electrical needs for the tiny home.

Gebbia says he wanted to build an ADU on his own property but found the options to be lukewarm, hence his idea to create Samara. He announced his departure from Airbnb, co-founded with Brian Chesky, in July after 14 years of being part of the company that changed the whole hotel game. Samara began as an R&D unit of Airbnb beginning back in 2016 but is now an independent startup. Airbnb maintains a minority stake—which only makes sense given that one of the Airbnb rental categories is 'tiny homes'...he's perhaps helping to build Airbnb's future inventory!

At twilight, a small brown backyard studio has glowing windows and glass doors. Small decks off the side hold potted plants.
Photograph: Courtesy Samara

Certainly, the pandemic brought on a rash of shed-building and ADU installations as people hunkered down at home and looked for long-term projects to improve their property. Another ADU company—which creates 3-D printed homes from 60 percent recycled resins—is Mighty Buildings, which was already in business before the pandemic, but experienced a rush of business when it seemed like everyone suddenly wanted an in-law unit, an art studio or a pool house. The company, based out of Oakland, CA, uses 3-D printed panels including full-sized walls to build the houses almost like Lego projects. The manufacturing process involves zero waste and is cheaper than traditional construction.

And if you want to build your own, we recommend the plans at Grab a hammer and get going!

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