Airbnb has announced they will begin building their own prototype homes in 2019 through a new project called Backyard.
The short-term letting platform, which arguably kicked off the self-managed short-term letting craze, already has a global network of more than five million properties and is estimated to be worth approximately $38 billion.
According to a press release, Backyard will be an “endeavour to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes”.
The company has had an internal futures division, Samara, since 2016. Started by chief product officer and co-founder Joe Gebbia, Samara develops new products and services, including “green building materials, stand-alone houses, and multi-unit complexes”.
While the suggestion behind the name ‘Backyard’ is that the primary business model will be granny flats or cottages that can be put in the backyard of traditional homes to generate additional income, according to an interview with Fast Company Mr Gebbia says that isn’t the case, and that the company will be looking to expand from that basis into larger projects.
As yet, it hasn’t been confirmed exactly what Backyard will build, but previous comments from Mr Gebbia support that it will be units aimed at short-term leasing and the rental market which will be adaptable to each occupant.
If the project proves to be successful, it will transform Airbnb from a marketplace platform to a real estate developer – something which could be helpful as more cities fight with the company over short-term rental restrictions.
This isn’t Airbnb’s first foray into building. Samara’s first project was the Yoshino Cedar House, designed by Japanese architect Go Hasegawa. A community centre and rental property, it was commissioned by Airbnb to bolster tourism in Yoshino, Japan. It was an experiment in co-living, and by March 2018 had welcomed 346 guests, generating $25,000 in bookings and $50,000 in local spending.