Turning trash into homes

HOUSTON From the very first time you walk into Annie Strader's home, you know you're walking into something special.

"Isn't it cool! The open sort of shelves, I really love," said Strader.

But what you probably don't realize is that this house doesn't sit on a foundation, it's perched 30 feet off the ground.

"This is actually the tree that is moving that the house is being suspended in, so it comes out from the floor and back into the wall," said Strader.

This tree house is part of a vision. Using everyday items, most people would consider useless, Dan Phillips has found a way to provide affordable living.

"A friend of mine said, 'I got a bunch of windows in my barn I'd love to get rid of.' I said, 'Great we'll use them,'" said Phillips.

He has been building homes like this for years. It's part of a life-long commitment to help people who can't afford traditional housing. Get into a home at a fraction of the cost.

"I grew up under parents that went through the depression and they saved everything so when I went to the landfill, it was like a candy store," said Phillips.

As part of a Phillips project, potential buyers must help construct their own home.

"This is charcoal grout you would use for shower," said homeowner Kristie Stevens.

In return, not only do they get a house that meets the toughest building codes, it's also at a price single mothers like Stevens can afford.

"It's about $368 for the mortgage. The insurance is about $50 and the taxes roughly $60 per month," said Stevens.

So far Phillips has built 14 structures each made with at least 75 percent recycled material. Everything from old relish dishes to a ceiling made completely of recycled frame samples.

"I'm not a wild-eyed greeny with ammo welts criss-crossing my chest and a red bandana. But we're clearly in trouble. We need to do something," said Phillips.

That seems to be what attracts his clients. A way to strike a balance between living affordably and helping Mother Nature.

"When you look up at the ceiling and there's all these reclaimed frames, you feel like you're doing something that's both beneficial to the environment, but also in terms of creative reuse it's really great too," said Strader.

Currently, Phillips only builds in Huntsville, mainly working with low-income artists.

To learn more about some of the other unique items he uses in his homes, you can watch our entire interview with Phillips here and also visit Phillips' website phoenixcommotion.com.

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