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A new development is bringing ‘micro-units’ to East Austin

Friday, October 6, 2017 by Syeda Hasan

A new development going up in East Austin hopes to provide a more affordable option for home ownership. The Fourth & condos in East Austin feature what are called “micro-units,” efficiency apartments that span just a few hundred square feet.

“It is laid out to where you have a living space, you have a bookshelf that will separate your living and sleeping space, and then you’ve got enough room for a queen-sized bed,” said Scott Sproat with Austin-based Capsa Ventures, the firm behind the project.

The three-story, 97-apartment development is being built at Fourth and Chicon streets. Along with the micro-unit apartments, which are about 500 square feet, there are larger condos up to two bedrooms. About half of all units have been reserved so far. The goal, Sproat said, is to offer a diversity of housing choices near the city center where it’s getting more expensive to build.

“Our last five reservations have been studio or micro-loft units,” he said. “We’re starting to see a lot of people understand that micro-lofts are a great fit for them, whether you’re single or married or even have a small family.”

Fourth & doesn’t include any income-restricted affordable units – homes that are constructed and reserved only for tenants who make below a certain amount of money. The current price for a condo at the development ranges from about $250,000 to just under $600,000. But the project’s efficient building practices are informing affordable housing developers in Austin.

Greg Anderson, the director of operations for Austin Habitat for Humanity, said the group is considering building its own micro-units. The nonprofit builds homes for low-income families that are designed for long-term affordability. Anderson and other Habitat staff recently toured the Fourth & site, getting a look at their construction practices. The building is made with recycled steel and concrete, and it includes several energy-efficient features.

“Because Austin Habitat specializes in home ownership, we definitely want to make sure that the materials that we use will stand the age of time, so we definitely look at steel and concrete and a lot of those materials, such as what Fourth & is using,” Anderson said. “We are shying away from the idea, especially as we go taller, of just using stick.”

Anderson is referring to traditional wood-framed homes, which he said don’t age as well as steel-framed buildings. Ultimately, he said, if we want to improve affordability in neighborhoods with good schools and expensive homes, Austin may start seeing more of these smaller units.

The Fourth & project is set to be completed near the end of next month.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Martin do Nascimento/KUT.

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