Now that you've stuffed your virtual shopping basket and survived America’s most harrowing holiday, Black Friday, it's time to momentarily cease shopping — but don’t part with that credit card just yet — and focus on a bit of old-fashioned holiday do-goodery. And although you may be completely overwhelmed by the amount of outstanding organizations to lend your financial support to this #GivingTuesday, I’m going to go ahead and throw another one into the philanthropic pile: Rural Studio’s 20K City Challenge.

You may already be familiar with $20K House, an affordable home building initiative launched in 2005 by Rural Studio, an undergraduate architecture program of Auburn University that was founded 12 years prior by the late, great social justice architect and MacArthur "Genius Grant" recipient McSam Mockbee in Hale County, Alabama.

Since the inception of $20K House research project, Rural Studio has erected a dozen innovative and affordable — the project gets its name from the established maximum housing cost that an individual living on Social Security can afford to pay in monthly mortgage installments — homes across counties in Alabama’s poverty-stricken “Black Belt.”

While sustainability and a reliance on the use of local and recycled materials has played into the design of various 20K Houses since the project's inception, in recent years students enrolled in the Rural Studio program have begun to incorporate passive solar design and tornado-safe features into the low-cost homes which, at 550-square-feet, cost under $20,000 (a maximum of $12,000 for materials and $8,000 for labor and contractor profits) to build. “Unlike other Rural Studio projects, the aim of the $20K House is to create a line of homes which could be built by contractors and have a greater impact on local communities,” explains the Rural Studio outreach page.

This year, the 20th anniversary of Rural Studio, director Andrew Freear and his students have something decidedly more ambitious up their sleeves: building eight $20K Houses in just one year with the hopes of extending the design out of rural Alabama and into the mass market so that potential homeowners across the country have the opportunity to invest in affordable, smartly designed housing as a “viable alternative” to trailer homes which, unlike traditional homes, deteriorate quickly and loose value over time. The push to transition the $20K House from an ongoing research project to a viable product is being headed up by Rural Studio alumna Marion McElroy in the role of 20K House Product Manager.

To reach this goal while keeping the cost of the $20K House at its signature price tag (Freear explains to Co.Exist that it “costs the same amount to underwrite a $150,000 as a $20,000, so there's always pressures to raise the cost of the house”), Rural Studio has launched the 20K City Challenge in which donors living in different cities are encouraged to band together and “compete head-to-head with other cities in a no-holds-barred, winner-takes-all battle” to raise $20,000.

The first cities to collectively reach the $20,000 goal — the overall fundraising goal for the Challenge is $160,000 or $20,000 for each of the eight homes — and raise the most money will have $20K Houses named in their honor. Thus far, Birmingham, Chicago, and San Francisco have all exceeded the Challenge while Austin, Washington D.C., and Atlanta aren’t too far off. The Challenge ends on December 6 so hurry hurry.

In addition to custom giving plans, those interested in participating in the 20K City Challenge can donate to the Adopt-A-20K program which offers 12 different levels of giving including a 2x4 ($2.50), a sink ($100), a toilet ($250), and plumbing and electrical systems ($2,500). Big spenders donating $20,000 can help to build an entire house. Click here to learn more.

Via [Co.Exist], [ArchDaily]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

This #GivingTuesday, help support Rural Studio's 20K City Challenge
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