Unusual and Cheap Housing Ideas

By: Steve Gillman

My own interest in cheap housing ideas started because I never liked having a job, or working too many hours per week. I worked full time for perhaps just nine months in my life (I'm 43), so it was necessary at times to keep my expenses low. My first house was a mobile home on a small lot in a Northern Michigan town. The $257 payments were easy enough for a while, but I paid off the mortgage early during an unusual period of 30-hour work weeks (almost full time for me).

However, I wasn't just a buyer of cheap housing - I was also a supplier. I rented the other rooms in the mobile home. In this way I lived for free and even had a little extra income after paying the household bills. I also built a shed for $250, carpeted it and put in a light, and then rented it out at times for $50 per week - now that's a good ROI (return on investment).

In Mexico, when I was 17 years old, a group of factory workers gave me a ride and let me spend the night in their extra bunk (I was hitchhiking). They had a futuristic plastic apartment, big enough for four bunk beds and not much more. In the bathroom, the floor, toilet and bath tub were all made out of one continuous piece of molded plastic. Outside, the grounds had tennis courts, as well as cement paths with benches, that wound through flower beds.

An efficiently designed 300-square-foot apartment works for single young people. If such construction was allowed in some parts of the United States (there was only one door and other code issues) these kinds of apartments could probably really solve some problems. With twenty of them on a small property, an investor could make money renting them out for $240 per month, utilities included. Split between four single young men or women, this would be just $60 each, or $15 per week. That's really cheap housing.

Other Cheap Housing Ideas

In those places where there is no big snow-load to worry about, tent-style housing, like that used on the Mongolian plains might be okay. Normal walls and roofs cost a lot, but insulated fabric would be a fraction of the cost. Even if it needed to be replaced every 12 years it might cost a lot less than using traditional walls and roofs.

There was an indoor ice rink in our local park for years before I noticed that its roof was held up by air pressure alone. It worked well enough, which makes me wonder if this kind of construction might be used for houses too. Think inflatable houses...

How about 10-by-12-foot cube-rooms that fit together easily in many different ways? A buyer starts with a bathroom cube, a kitchen cube and a bedroom cube, and then add more as he can afford to. Having them pre-made with a uniform design would keep the costs low. The electrical would be built-in and ready to plug into the next cube-room.

My friend was thrown out of the home he built on his own land, because it wasn't large enough to meet the county building code. We discovered however, that it would have been legal for him to camp on his property in an Recreational Vehicle, even if it was smaller than his shack. This makes me wonder if an entrepreneur could buy 40 used RVs for $4,000 each, put them on a piece of land, and then rent them to low income tenants. Just call it "camping," and this cheap housing idea might be okay with authorities.

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