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Is This The Future Of Low-Income Housing?

National

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Affordable housing can be a thing of beauty: that's the idea behind Rural Studio, a design-build program at Auburn University in Alabama that wants to build ultra-low-cost houses ($20k or less) that anyone would want. 

After years of sketching prototypes, Rural Studio students partnered with a commercial developer on the edge of Atlanta to develop two one-bedroom cottages with less than $14k of materials each.

Every detail of the houses—from the foundation, built with cantilevers, to the minimalistic interior—is strategically calculated to minimize costs, while also optimizing efficiency. And of course, the innovative aesthetics is what truly makes the houses stand out. 

"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."

As part of the project, Rural Studio came up with an IKEA-inspired "instruction set" so anybody could build the house for themselves. 

The biggest challenge remains how to bring the model to the public. On one end, zoning officials aren't used to dealing with small-scale, tiny-budget houses. Secondly, banks may not be willing to issue mortgages for such small amounts. [FC]