Airbnb has already changed the way people travel. Now it's aiming to bring the sharing economy to housing, with the introduction of Backyard.
Airbnb's product development team, Samara, announced the project on Thursday. The Backyard initiative will prototype new ways that homes can be designed and built to accommodate flexible and shared living arrangements, while still being sustainable and adaptable.
Backyard aims to test prototypes units as soon as the fall of 2019.
"We began with a simple question: What does a home that is designed and built for sharing actually look and feel like?" Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia said in a statement about Backyard. "The answer is not simple at all.
"Other questions quickly emerged," said Gebbia. "Can a home respond to the needs of many inhabitants over a long period of time? Can it support and reflect the tremendous diversity of human experience? Can it keep up with the rate at which the world changes? Can we accomplish this without filling landfills with needless waste?
"It's a tall order."
While there are no details about what the homes might look like or how much they will cost, Gebbia told Fast Company that Backyard isn't just about a house, it's an "initiative to rethink the home."
"We helped people activate underutilized space — from a spare bedroom or treehouse to your apartment while you're away — and built a community that connected people around the world," Gebbia said. "With Backyard, we're using the same lens through which Airbnb was envisioned — the potential of space — and applying it more broadly to architecture and construction."
As The Washington Post points out, the project "could augment Airbnb's home-rental marketplace, adding real estate development to its portfolio, as cities continue to limit the company's short-term rentals. " Cities from New York to Washington, D.C. and Boston are passing regulations that have the effect of restricting Airbnb offerings.
And Airbnb is not the only company expanding into residential real estate and shared living space: In 2016, WeWork launched WeLive, which currently has two apartment locations (one in NYC and the other in D.C.). Both have dorm-like apartments and communal social spaces.
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