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A New Development Is Bringing 'Micro-Units' To East Austin

Martin do Nascimento
A view of the Fourth & construction site. The development will offer smaller, more affordable homes in East Austin.

A development going up in East Austin could provide a more affordable option for home ownership. 

The Fourth & condos 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,” says 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, one- and two-bedroom condos. About half the units have been reserved so far. The goal, Sproat says, is to offer a diversity of housing choices near the city center where it’s getting more expensive to build.

Credit Martin do Nascimento / KUT
Roger Frakes in the kitchen/living room of a model unit at Fourth &.

“Our last five reservations have been studio or micro-loft units,” he says. “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 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, says 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 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 says. “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 says don’t age as well as steel-framed buildings. Ultimately, he says, 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.

Syeda Hasan is a senior editor at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @syedareports.
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