Timothy Hursley

The low-income houses that Rural Studio is known for are still an important part of its mission. Rural Studio has partnered with a Hale County nonprofit called the HERO Housing Resource Center to help expand access to federal affordable-housing programs. The intent is to develop a range of home plans that can be easily built by local contractors under a USDA rural housing loan program, Section 502.

This program serves people who have a low, steady income yet are unable to obtain adequate housing through conventional financing. The amount of the government loan is based on a client's income: For someone living in Alabama and receiving a disability benefit, the standard $560 per month would make him or her eligible for a loan of $20,000. Hence the $20K Houses. With roughly $10,000 going to materials, a builder's labor and profit bring the total cost to $20,000.

So far, three prototypes have been built through the Rural Studio's Outreach Program, which attracts working professionals and non-degree-seeking students. Each house (shown above is the second one, with owner Frank “Biscuit” Harris) was designed to be both easy and inexpensive to operate. And because many will be built near existing homes, their design respects local vernacular traditions in terms of form and massing.

Timothy Hursley

FIRST $20K HOUSE (FINISHED 2005), PROJECT TEAM: Minn Joo Kim, Hanna Loftus, Phillip March, Laura Noguera, Kellie Stokes

SECOND $20K HOUSE (2006), PROJECT TEAM: Fernando Abreu, Alexandre Landry, Nathalie Leysen, Susan Massey

$32K DUPLEX (2007), PROJECT TEAM: Jeremy Aranoff, Karamjit Birk, Sabina Nieto, Jane Sloss