Affordable Housing Design Advisor

The Affordable Housing Design Advisor is an incredible resource for planners, architects, engineers, real estate developers, and anyone else involved in the production  of affordable housing. The website breaks every preconceived notion one could have about traditional “housing projects.” It shows, without a doubt, that good design can create equitable, dignified, and beautiful living conditions for people of any income, age, or ability. As the homepage tells us: “good design can make a world of difference for the people who will live in the affordable housing you help build, and for the neighborhood surrounding it.”

Little Ajax
Little Ajax: Source

One of my favorite projects on Design Advisor is the Little Ajax project, designed by Gluck and Partners (now Gluck+) and subsidized by the City of Aspen. Little Ajax features lovely modern design – raised, two-story, angular units, with large windows and a light grey/maroon color scheme that stands out but fits well with the mountain setting. Green design features include brownfield redevelopment, public trails, cooling rooftops, on-site stormwater management with green infrastructure, and dual flush toilets. From everything I can see, Little Ajax is absolutely a neighborhood where I would want to live.

Pruitt Igoe
The demolition of Pruitt-Igoe, an infamous traditional “housing project”: Source

Another great project is Maverick Landing in Boston. This is a large redevelopment project, with 150 stylish townhouses and flats that offer walkable transit access, solar energy, drought resistant landscaping, and construction using local and recycled materials. I’m not one to live in big cities, but if I needed an apartment in East Boston, I would certainly consider Maverick Landing. There is one major problem, however: at $1,295 per month for a 690 square foot, one bedroom flat, I could hardly afford to live there. Design Advisor claims that this rent is affordable for the 50%-80% range of area median income,  meaning Boston is one damn expensive place to live.

Pine Ridge Townhomes, in Ketchum, Idaho, is a third inspiring example. This is a mixed-income development, with 40% affordable housing and 60% market rate units. Mixed-income is a more respectful and socially desirable approach to affordable housing than isolating and segregating people into a power-laden class structure. Pine Ridge Townhomes also includes a range of green design features, especially walkability and on-site stormwater management. Again, from what I can see, it is a place I would certainly enjoy calling home.

These are just a few of the hundred or so brilliant affordable housing examples provided by Design Advisor. Projects range as large as the Randolph Neighborhood redevelopment in Richmond, Virginia, with over 1,000 affordable units, and as small as the single unit Jackson Habitat House in Jackson, Mississippi. The range of housing types, design styles, and innovative green initiatives is truly staggering. Surprising, and particularly appealing to me personally, are the beautiful affordable units integrated into mountain resort communities.

Clearly, there is a new wave of equitable, sustainable, and profitable  affordable housing development rising up across the country. The Affordable Housing Design Advisor is helping to lead the way.


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