Citizen architects build $20K houses for rural poor – a good solution for our home community?
August 1, 2013 by Blandin Foundation
Lack of affordable housing is the number one cause of homelessness in America, according to the Equitable Housing Institute. In rural America especially, transportation, low wages, and high poverty levels contribute to the homelessness of over 70,000 people on any given day.
Rural Studio – a program that trains architectural students to become “citizen architects” – has been working for 20 years to thwart homelessness in one rural community. Founded by Auburn University architecture professor Samuel Mockbee, Rural Studio has built more than 150 cost-effective, inventive buildings for community and family use in Newbern, Alabama.
This year, their program is going public.
…for the first time, Rural Studio will move from constructing one house a year for local individuals to putting its designs on the market.
Housing groups and individuals will be able to purchase the plans for three model houses drafted, and test-built, by members of Rural Studio.
These $20,000 homes are small, no more than 500 square feet, but are sturdy and hold value much better than other low-cost options, like trailer homes. The $20,000 price tag was chosen because it was considered the highest possible mortgage an individual living on Social Security could afford.
Designed with care by current and upcoming architectural professionals, these plans will help to solve the problem of quality, affordable housing for many rural American communities, including our home community of Itasca County.
A recent report by KOOTASCA Community Action found that, since 2006, homelessness in Northern Minnesota has exceeded the state average. The rising cost of housing, and declining incomes, have placed an added burden on our lowest income renters. While some struggle to pay rent, others are being turned away from homeless and transitional housing facilities because they are filled to capacity.
Building cost-effective, quality homes, like those designed by Rural Studio, might be an applicable solution for Itasca County, given the high poverty and homelessness rates.
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