A previous blogger, Diama Norris, first wrote about the 20K House Project on our blog back in 2009. The idea behind the project is the creation of affordable housing which serves as an alternative to mobile homes and expands homeownership among low-income individuals. The idea is as appealing now as it was when Diama first discussed it over 5 years ago.
Rural Studio is the program behind the 20K House project. They are an undergraduate program of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University. Rural Studio is celebrating its 20th anniversary and has much to show for it. Over the past two decades they have provided practical experiences for students who design and build projects benefiting underserved populations in rural Alabama.
The 20K House Project itself began in 2005, and has produced 12 versions of the 20K house. Each version was given away to residents in need who reside in and around Hale County. Now efforts are underway to take what Rural Studies has learned through this hands-on research project and create a marketable product. This will entail architectural reviews to ensure 20K homes are compliant with local codes and FHA loan standards, as well as building a branding and marketing plan.
Slate’s recent article, “Can These $20,000 Houses Save the American Dream?,” explains that the project’s goal is to design a home where a contractor spends approximately $12,000 on materials and then allocates $8,000 for labor and profit. With a final price of $20,000, the estimated mortgage would be around $108 a month. This mortgage amount reflects what would be the maximum affordable payment for a person receiving median Social Security benefits of $758 a month. In addition to being affordable, 20K houses will increase in value over time, as opposed to mobile homes which depreciate in value each year.
Over the years, the project has adapted their designs based on their client’s feedback, and most now include porches and high ceilings. The porches are included to provide more social space, and the high ceilings are necessary to allow air to rise and be vented out. Other recent innovations include closets that double as tornado shelters and new designs will try to incorporate a 2 bedroom model as well.
The Christian Science Monitor reported in June of 2013 that Rural Studio hopes some of their newer models can be reproduced on a large scale and financed by loans through the Department of Agriculture. The Rural Housing Service is part of the Department of Agriculture, and under Section 502 it can either provide direct loans or guarantee loans through a commercial lender. The program is designed to serve rural residents who have “steady, low or modest income and yet are unable to obtain adequate housing through conventional financing.”
- For more information on the 20K home, you can check out their blog.
- For more media coverage of Rural Studies and their work, you can read “Twenty Years Later, What Rural Studio Continues to Teach Us About Good Design” from Arch Daily.
- There are also books about the Rural Studio:
o Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency, by Andrea Oppenheimer Dean and Timothy Hursley;
o Proceed and Be Bold: Rural Studio After Samuel Mockbee, by Andrea Oppenheimer Dean and Timothy Hursley; and
o Rural Studio at Twenty: Designing and Building in Hale County, Alabama, by Andrew Freear, Elena Barthel, Timothy Hursley and Andrea Oppenheimer.