Everyone is talking about affordable housing like it is a singular thing. It is not. What is affordable varies from place to place and person to person. That $250k colonial in Tulsa may be on the higher end of the market, but in the Boston area, you may want to make sure it is not missing a key component like walls or plumbing!
One solution to a truly affordable home is to limit the square footage to only what you need. This is not a plea to save the planet, this is a statement to save your wallet, and possibly reduce your need to slave away at a job that is not quite what you want to be doing with your time.
As an architect, my goal in design is not to maximize the space or budget, but to maximize the use of the space within the budget. This is done in a few ways, two of which I will lay out here.
The first way is to determine what is really needed. A great example of this is the dining room. In modern life, a formal dining room is rarely if ever used. In sitting down with home owners, this type of lifestyle choice is always one of the first discussions we focus on. Laying out how they think their life will fill in the space between the walls we create allows us as a team to provide a sliding scale of value judgements. Maybe that dining room IS necessary, but a master suite is not? Maybe an open living/dining/kitchen area can take advantage of a smaller footprint while maintaining the open, spacious feeling the family seeks. Maybe that home basketball court IS necessary. It is not my home, it is my job to design THEIR home and I need to know what matters to them. From there, the second method can build.
The second method is to find and take advantage of efficiencies, adjacencies and shared spaces. While creating a typical box and a long hallway may be the traditional way, there are more creative ways to organize the spaces. Typically, finding the prime space in the house and using that as a locus for adjacencies allows for the design to use the edges of this space as pass thru to others. Saving this little space here and little space there adds up in my area where cost of construction is high and always rising. Saving these transition spaces and applying budget dollars to enhance the destination spaces provides a better finished product.
As you can see, the second step is 100% reliant on the first. Finding out the value judgements and applying them through the design process allows me as the architect to maximize the dollars and help an owner maximize their project.