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New Kasita owners repurpose tiny prefab houses for hospitality concept

An innovative Austin home-building company becomes a disruptive Austin-based hotel company

A sleek, small, mobile home with stainless metal siding, tinted windows, and small clerestory windows at the top.
Kasita produced under former management
Courtesy of Kasita

Born of an experiment in which founder Jeff Wilson lived in a dumpster for a year, Kasita launched in Austin in 2015, touting its smart, prefab, modular tiny homes that seemed like they could be one answer to the affordability crisis hitting both its home city and others across the country. Kasitas that would be based on the 352-square-foot prototype parked on an East Austin lot were projected to cost around $139,000 (which didn’t include purchasing the land they would stand on, of course—although at the time changes in Austin’s zoning ordinances were starting make the more widespread use of accessory dwelling units on residential properties possible).

By 2017, Kasita was a national phenomenon—at least in the press, think tanks, and the academy—if not yet one that was actually producing and selling a lot of its streamlined, modern tiny homes. Touted as the “iPhone for housing” (it was 2017), the Kasita model and its touted revolutionary potential were featured, praised, and debated in multiple media sources, including CityLab and the New York Times. Its tours, collaborations, and activations during SXSW were big hits for a couple of years. Curbed and the Verge even produced and aired a video about Kasita for their Home of the Future series.

Throughout 2017 and into 2018, the company continued to announce advances such as moving to a stackable version of its modular units that would be more affordable than the originals, expansion to other states, and the start of production in its own manufacturing facility. Around the start of 2019, the buzz around Kasita quieted considerably, and, if LinkedIn is any indication, Williams’s tenure as CEO seems to have ended late last year.

By June, Kasitas were appearing on the MLS, brokered by real estate professionals, not the company. According to the company’s new website, “serial entrepreneurs” Kenny Tomlin and Richard Lent—who also own the Kimber Modern boutique hotel in South Austin—became co-owners of Kasita in early 2019.

Rather than continuing to operate the company as a (very specialized) home builder that sells primarily individual residential dwellings (which it no longer does), Tomlin and Lent reinvented Kasita as a hospitality-oriented company. Individual Kasitas are now hotel suites, intended to be grouped and operated as a sort of hotel compound, with guests staying in individual, detached units rather than a single building. Guests will use various technologies come and go independent of any staff—not unlike the intended independent, tech-based experience at the newly opened Arrive East Austin—although there will be common areas available to guests as well.

According to its website, Kasita will launch its flagship site in Austin, where it has already signed a design, development, and management agreement for a property. It’s scheduled to open in 2020. The website also indicates that the company intends to expand to San Antonio, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; Portland, Oregon; Bentonville, Arkansas; and San Diego, California and invites parties interested in developing the hotels in other parts of the country to get in touch.