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Students try to figure out how to make $20K homes by building in a luxury community

Homes at Serenbe, a luxury sustainable living community outside of Atlanta, start at around half a million dollars, so it might not be the first place you’d expect Rural Studio to erect a 20K Houses, so named because a $20,000 mortgage is likely the most someone living on the median Social Security could afford.

Rural Studio is part of the Auburn University architecture program and is focused on community-oriented projects. Students have come up with 16 prototypes for houses that would cost $20,000: $12,000 for materials and the rest for labor and profit. Serenbe has an artist residency program, as well as the land and resources to see a couple of the 20K Houses through production.

Each 550-square-foot cottage has a single bedroom and bathroom. To keep costs low, the students and pro bono consultants accounted for everything that would go into the homes and concentrated on the best construction methods, according to ArtsATL. The idea is to make attractive homes that appreciate in value as an alternative to mobile homes. They built the homes on piers to improve airflow and get the benefits of passive heating and cooling. The siding is corrugated metal, which is affordable and long-lasting. Thanks to donations, the cottages have Toto toilets and sinks and Bosch appliances.


“Once these field tests have been deemed successful it is the ultimate goal to develop a set of construction documents and specifications complete enough for construction in a climate similar to our local region, and easily adjusted to meet the building requirements of other areas beyond,” according to a press release.

While the goal is to make these types of houses at the $20,000 mark, Rural Studio isn’t quite there yet. It cost $135,000 to make the artist cottages at Serenbe.

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