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3 Affordable Starter Home Solutions From Architects

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With a lot of help from the homeowners

Earlier this week, Curbed published a ton of stories about starter homeswhere people are buying them, how they can do it smarter, what the market data says, and so on. While the discussion has largely centered on existing older houses or large-scale new developments, those are certainly not the only means of first-time homeownership.

Indeed, around the world, architects are doing their part to innovate affordable starter home solutions for families who simply can’t afford a house without drastic measures in design and construction. Below, take a look at three designer approaches to the low-cost starter home, all of which involved a lot of labor contributed by the future homeowners themselves.

Box House—Monterrey, Mexico

For $11,600, Mexican architecture workshop S-AR was able to help a 32-year-old local construction worker erect this 1,184-square-foot concrete house for his family of four. The cost covered materials, basic blacksmithing, and glass installation services. S-AR provided technical and design assistance, while land was already secured by the family beforehand. The two-story structure contains a living and dining area on the first floor, and two bedrooms on the second floor. [Read more]

LT House—Long Thành, Vietnam

For $19,300, Vietnamese firm Tropical Space built this 1,160-square-foot brick dwelling for newlyweds who wanted their own house. To save cost, the owners built all the basic furniture themselves. The perforated structure features front and back courtyards as a buffer from the heat, an open ground level suitable for entertaining or a small coffee shop down the line, plus an upper level family space with two bedrooms, kitchen, and dining area. [Read more]

IVRV House—Los Angeles, California

For $165 per square foot, students at Southern California Institute of Architecture—led by architect and professor Darin Johnstone—and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles built this 1,185-square-foot house in West Athens, CA, on land donated by the county. (If you’re counting that’s about a total cost of $195,525,not an objectively small number but low when considering the median sales price in the area is around $430,000.)

The modern-style abode has stucco walls, concrete floors, and a large "eco-screen" that’s supposed to filter air and provide a shade for the front courtyard. The property was recently sold to Belete Belhu, an Ethiopian born U.S. Army veteran has been living in a 450-square-foot L.A. apartment with his wife and two daughters. Belhu contributed 500 hours of labor on this house and other Habitat projects as a part of the "sweat equity" down payment required of each Habitat partner homebuyer. [Read more]