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Small, affordable, and stylish housing? Definitely.

What would you rather have? 4,000 venti lattes or a house? Believe it not, the cost could be the same.

The students from Rural Studio at Auburn University have built a group of small stylish houses with an astonishing price of just $20,000 a piece. These residential architecture projects required $14,000 worth of materials and the construction workers are paid a living wage. $20,000 is the amount that a person on assisted living or Social Security could afford. But these financial limits weren’t the only constraints that the students and the program faced.

The designers ran into many other challenges. For example, getting mortgages for the houses and building the houses so that zoning and building codes were met. The way residential design construction was organized with building contractors and virtually every design detail had to be re-examined.

And these pared-down houses are attractive. The small neighborhood where they are located is a tony suburb of Atlanta, which was done intentionally—to draw attention to this innovative residential program.

The tweaks that the students have been making as the program has progressed have been many—and are continuing. Improvements on the design of 550 sq. ft. houses’ construction and materials have been made to make each detail as efficient as possible. It’s the 20th anniversary of the residential project, and each year’s version has included improvements. The director of Rural Studio director Andrew Freear said, "We've designed this thing to an inch of its life."

The ultimate goal of the exterior and interior programs is to share the residential designs and instruction plans with everyone, so that the houses can be constructed wherever they’re needed. If someone has the skills and motivation, a house can be A DIY construction for even less than $20,000. Pretty amazing. Affordable housing is a problem in many areas, and this could be the solution.

The project might have seemed daunting at first, but Rural Studio has created amazing structures that can be absolutely life-changing. “Socially conscious architecture” is a term likely coined by Sam Mockbee, the founder of the Rural Studio, and this venture is the ultimate example of genius exterior and interior design.

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