Airbnb-Backed Samara Aims to Tackle Tight Housing Market in California – Skift Travel News

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Samara’s factory in Mexico will bring the design and production of the units in-house.

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Airbnb-backed Samara, which sells tiny homes called “Backyard,” is boosting its production facilities in Mexico. 

The company acquired a factory in Mexicali, Mexico last month to bring the manufacturing in-house. Samara hopes this will give it greater control over quality standards, reduce delivery times, and speed up product development. Once workers complete both interior and exterior finishing touches of the home at the factory, each unit is loaded onto a truck and delivered directly to the customer’s property.

Last week, Samara installed one of these backyard units – or accessory dwelling units – in Sacramento, the first unit to be designed and manufactured entirely by Samara. The company was previously using another manufacturer.

In 2016, Airbnb set up Samara as its research and development unit and a design studio, which Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia headed. He stopped playing an active role at Airbnb in 2022, but remains a board member and chairs

Samara transitioned into an independent startup in 2022. In November 2022, Gebbia unveiled Backyard, a net-zero tiny house.

Product and Price

Samara homes come in two formats: Studio units start at $289,000 and are 430 square feet, featuring a kitchen, bathroom, walk-in shower, built-in storage, and a combination washer and dryer.

For those seeking more space, one-bedroom units begin at $329,000 and offer 550 square feet. They include all the amenities of the studio, along with the addition of a separate, enclosed bedroom. The homes are all steel-framed and solar powered. 

The price tag includes permits, fees, plumbing, electrical boxes, utility interfaces and wastewater management. 

“We drop it in your backyard and we take care of every single aspect of this. You never have to fill out any paperwork,” CEO Mike McNamara said. 

“We can drop one of these into an empty backyard and have it ready in two hours,” McNamara said. “With nothing except some cement foundation pillars — you can get a fully connected and structurally sound structure in your backyard in two hours.”

McNamara said the portfolio is being expanded with a two-bedroom, two-bath home. 

Yes In My Backyard

McNamara said that the company’s chief mission is to ease the pressures of a tight housing market in the country, starting with California. 

“We think about ourselves  much more as bringing new housing to the market. There are different use cases for the Backyard — you could put Granny back there, maybe kids coming home from college, put up a yoga studio, there’s like a million different things you can do for income on demand,” McNamara said. 

McNamara didn’t rule out the potential for these units to be rented for longer stays. Airbnb is often criticized for contributing to a housing crunch, and one of its co-founders, with Airbnb’s financial backing, is now creating housing, which can in turn be rented out on Airbnb.

According to Airbnb’s proxy statement in 2022, it invested $2.5 million in Samara and Gebbia is the majority investor. Airbnb also signed short-term leases for a workspace.

In November last year, the company raised $41 million in a Series A round. Thrive Capital led the round with participation from investors including 8VC, General Catalyst, New Legacy, and SV Angel. The two other Airbnb co-founders, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk, as well as Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell also participated in the round.

“So Airbnb is an investor in us so they’re part owner, but we actually create housing,” McNamara said. “We actually create new sources of housing that we would encourage anybody to rent on the Airbnb platform because even on the Airbnb platform, you can do 30-day rentals.”

The company’s initial testing ground is California  — which is where it’s based — after the state passed regulations in 2016 to allow accessory dwelling units in homes. As of 2024, homeowners and landlords can add two ADUs to their property to increase housing. 

Depending on local short-term rental regulations, these units can also be listed on Airbnb. 

McNamara said that Samara works with Californian legislators and an organization called Cal Yimby to push advocacy on supporting ADUs in housing. 

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