About a month ago, I read about an innovative architectural education program called Rural Studio that has been featured on public radio and has also become the subject of a book. Students working at Rural Studio are building houses in a very low-income part of western Alabama. These houses were designed to be affordable, with a $20,000 mortgage, for people living on incomes of close to $637 a month. (No, there is not a zero missing in that first number.) The houses look distinctive – these are not cookie-cutter buildings – but they are basic, functional homes built with low-cost materials. Rural Studio has also been expanding its scope to create other community buildings, including an animal shelter and a bird-watching tower.
I don’t know how much it would cost to construct these $20,000 houses on a larger scale, but there might be a significant untapped market for houses in that price range in the United States (and probably in other countries too).