Our Approach
Building on Research

Product Development

What does a house cost?

Rural Studio is directly addressing the insufficient housing and community infrastructure needs throughout our “Persistently Impoverished” five county service population. Since 1993, students have designed and built more than 200 homes and community projects in West Alabama. Many new homes have been constructed to replace substandard residences, providing beautiful, safe, secure, healthy, high-performance dwellings that support aging in place, in-home entrepreneurism, and strengthen critical existing intergenerational family “kinship networks.” By intentionally integrating advanced design solutions that also utilize local labor, conventional construction techniques, and locally available building materials, these projects directly contribute not only to the reduction in initial cons of construction, but also to the enhanced safety, security, health, welfare, educational and wealth building opportunities of our neighbors.

Several of the projects that rural studio has built, shown in polaroid style

Since 1993, students have designed and built more than 200 homes and community projects in West Alabama

Policy Development

What does a house afford?

In order to address the systemic issues underlying the housing affordability crisis facing much of rural America, Rural Studio is concerned both with what the house costs to purchase, as well as what it affords the homeowner once it is occupied. By coupling the ‘first cost’ inputs with the outcomes of the ‘second costs’ of homeownership, we are creating a new paradigm of how a lender might alternatively consider the ‘mortgage carry’ of a homeowner. For example, if a homeowner reduced their energy bill (second cost) by $25.00 per month and instead invests that same $25.00 to their mortgage payment, they can now afford to finance an additional $5000.00 in energy efficient construction (first cost) with no increase in their total monthly outlay. Such upgrades also increase the appraised value of the home, thus better protecting the investment of both lender and homeowner.

Partner Development

What is the cost of inaction?

Rural Studio is systemically approaching the housing affordability crisis across the entire ecosystem of procurement. Along with Fannie Mae, USDA, and Wells Fargo, we are currently working with a broad array of national and federal partners to do so, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Institute of Building Sciences, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, Kaiser Permanente, the Healthy Building Network, the Housing Assistance Council, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, YouthBuild International, and Habitat for Humanity. Together, this coalition of partners is developing a holistic approach to housing affordability that addresses the systemic issues and financial impact of energy efficiency, building durability, health outcomes, and wealth creation.

A graphic of Rural Studio students working and the names of partners listed out in repeating fashion on the background
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