Design team creates attractive $20K homes that could change the housing market

The goal is to make home ownership available to those below the poverty line

TRD New York /
Feb.February 07, 2016 12:00 PM

Every year for the last decade, Rural Studio, an Auburn University design-build program, has worked on designing a home that someone living below the poverty line could afford, while also providing a living wage for the local construction team. And they’ve finally developed something special: attractive one-bedroom houses that cost just $14,000 in materials.

Partnering with a commercial developer outside Atlanta, the program unveiled its design in January, according to Fast Company.

“The houses are designed to appear to be sort of normative, but they’re really high-performance little machines in every way,” Rusty Smith, associate director of Rural Studio, told Fast Company. “They’re built more like airplanes than houses, which allows us to have them far exceed structural requirements. … We’re using material much more efficiently. But the problem is your local code official doesn’t understand that. They look at the documents, and the house is immediately denied a permit simply because the code officials didn’t understand it.”

So to help local officials, the team also developed a detailed guide with Ikea-like instructions to educate local officials.

“When was the last time you were driving down the street by an affordable housing project and you thought, ‘Boy, I really wish I lived in one of those for myself,'” Smith said. “The goal of [the] $20K house is really to design a house that’s affordable, that anybody could have—and that anybody would want.” [Fast Company]Christopher Cameron


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