Student team finalist in HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing Competition

A Harvard Graduate School of Design student team has been named one of four finalists in the 2016 Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Competition, presented by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Policy Development & Research (PD&R).

The GSD team—comprising Omar Carrillo (MUP ’17), Miriam Keller (MUP ’18 and MPP HKS ’18), Justin Kollar (MArch ’16), and Alyson Stein (MUP ’17)—will present with the other three finalist teams on April 19 at the HUD in Washington, D.C., with a winner named thereafter. The team’s faculty advisor Chris Herbert, lecturer in urban planning and design at the GSD and managing director of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

The four finalists were announced on February 19. The four teams will conduct site visits in March and will give final presentations to the competition jury on April 19 in Washington, D.C.

Now in its third year, the IAH Competition is designed to encourage research and innovation in affordable housing and to foster cross-cutting teamwork within the design and community-development process. In each of its three administrations, the competition has asked student teams to address social, economic, and environmental issues in responding to a specific housing problem.

For the 2016 competition, PD&R partnered with the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara in California to provide a real-world situation for entrants. The situation’s design issue focuses on family housing, and the competition brief asks students to consider social needs and connectivity, noting how quality of life for families involves not just physical structure but also creation of a neighborhood and access to supportive services.

Among other details, the brief calls for about 35 family dwellings with indoor and outdoor common areas and with contract rent within Rental Assistance Demonstration parameters.

The team felt both challenged and inspired by the needs issued in the competition prompt. They also found that the issues they grappled with as they produced their submission are many of the same issues and discussions they encounter in their GSD coursework.

“The competition provided an opportunity for us to rise to the challenge of redesigning and refinancing public housing,” Stein says. “We all came to the team with different backgrounds related to housing, whether in architecture, development, or policy. We saw this competition as a way to combine each of our skill sets in solve a real-life problem as creatively as possible.”

The team’s proposal calls for a rebuild of the 28 existing public-housing units on site, adding six subsidized family units and 28 mixed-income, elderly-housing units to produce a cohesive, intergenerational community. The proposed site centers around a re-envisioned “Opportunity Center,” offering programming intended to enrich the living environment and to invite partnership opportunities with community organizations.

“The topic of what to do with America’s aging affordable housing stock, and specifically the public housing segment of that stock, is a pressing issue,” Stein notes. “This is an issue that should be addressed through both creative design and financing, which is why using an interdisciplinary lens when evaluating our plan for the site was essential.”

The 2016 Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Competition’s Final Four Jury and Awards Presentation will be webcast live on April 19 via the competition website. Registration will be available shortly.

Image: Selection of GSD team proposal for competition site, Monteria Village. Image courtesy student team.