Fast Company

You'll Want This $20,000 Home More Than Your Own

How do you build a home that's comfortable, safe and affordable for those under the poverty line? Students enrolled in Auburn University's Rural Studio program have been trying to answer that question for the past 10 years.

Every semester, students have created prototypes of homes that would be an affordable and wise investment both for the homeowner and the construction team that's hired to build it.

In 2016, the Rural Studio team completed their first two one-bedroom houses in Serenbe, Ala. that cost only $14,000 each to build. The homes were built with low-cost materials and unique construction techniques that allowed the construction to be completed at such a low cost.

"We're in a kind of experimental stage of the program, where we're really trying to find out the best practice of getting this house out into the public's hands," Rusty Smith, associate director of Rural Studio, told Fast Company. "Really this first field test was to find out all the things that we didn't know, and to find out all of the kind of wrong assumptions that we had made, and really find out how we had screwed up, honestly."

Some of the challenges the team faced included getting permits from local officials, who had a difficult time applying their current codes to the team's unique construction techniques. Although there have been many challenges, Smith says they made sure to keep an emphasis on making the home as comfortable and stylish as possible.

"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 says. "The goal of 20K House is really to design a house that's affordable, that anybody could have—and that anybody would want."

Eventually, the group hopes to release a detailed plan that will instruct readers on how to build their own home, step by step. Although they say they are currently behind schedule, they hope to get the plans out as soon as possible in order to help Americans build their own low-cost housing.

This post was originally published on October 26, 2016. 

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