New Avenue Homes: Going Big with Small

Green Corridor entrepreneur Kevin Casey is proof that the biggest ideas come in small packages – and in the field of energy efficiency, the smaller the better.

Casey was a graduate student at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business when he first became inspired by the idea of “net-zero” homes: dwellings that would emit no carbon dioxide and would create their own, self-sustaining energy source.  His interest was two-fold: as a student and professional, Casey wanted to learn more about the potential intersection of modular home construction and clean technology.  As a young person in the Bay Area (where 85% of families cannot afford a median-priced home), he was also motivated by the desire to create affordable housing.  Casey had no substantial housing design experience in 2008 when inspiration hit, but that did not deter him from launching what is now New Avenue Homes.  Three years later, Casey’s idea is a thriving clean tech business with big plans for very small houses.

New Avenue is a development model that enables communities to grow internally, via urban infill, as opposed to externally. The company builds detached accessory dwelling units (ADU's) on underutilized properties within existing neighborhoods. Casey believes this kind of growth could put an end to suburban sprawl, meet the demand for new homes, and support sustainability for families and communities. “My goal is to build houses in all the fast-growing cities in the country, and eventually internationally,” Casey said in a recent interview with the East Bay Green Corridor.  “This is how much of the rest of the world lives already.”

So far, New Avenue has only worked with a handful of clients. But the list is growing, and Casey is up for the challenge. “We accommodate diversity,” Casey explained. “Whether it's a one or two person household, a family needing extra space, or as an income property, we can work with them.” The company has seven projects underway at the moment, and just signed its ninth client. The two most recent projects will break ground in May. 

Casey is nothing if not confident about the future of his vision. “We anticipate a million dollars in revenue this year, and several times that next year,” he said. He also projects huge long-term savings for families who invest in a New Avenue home, estimating a $500,000 to 1 million dollar value in high-price property areas.

Casey knows that not everyone wants to live in a diminutive backyard cottage. But he believes that his energy-efficient units could revolutionize new home building and satisfy the housing needs of many people. “For households that want to be able to fit more people and possessions, we have a model with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a loft that can double as an office and extra storage. For many people, that's plenty of room. And our 640 square foot, energy-efficient properties are a lot nicer than some of the larger homes that you can buy."

Customers who purchase New Avenue homes get more than the home itself. The company also assists with zoning, permitting and financing. In a sharp move away from traditional home-buying practice, New Avenue lends money directly to homeowners to create a second unit on their properties. Casey wants to create a mainstream financing vehicle that he believes will benefit homeowners and cause a “big shift in housing.”

Casey believes in his business, which he sees as the housing of the future. “What I want to tell investors - not to sound arrogant,” Casey said, “is 'give me a enough money to do a million of them.' We could do a million of them. That's what I want to tell the world." 

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