Three affordable housing developments—Via Verde in New York City, Community Learning Center in Leominster, Mass., and New Accessible Passive Solar Housing in Stoneham, Mass.—are the winners of the 2013 HUD Secretary’s Housing and Community Design Award.

“These developments prove that you can push the boundaries of design while still creating something very special that folks can actually afford,” said Shaun Donovan, Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary and a trained architect.  “These projects took innovative visions from the drawing board and made them a part of how we live today.”

The projects were selected by the federal agency and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and will be recognized June 21 in a ceremony during the AIA National Convention and Design Exposition in Denver.

Via Verde, a 222-unit mixed-income development with ground-floor retail stores and a community health center, is being recognized for excellence in affordable housing design. Built on a former brownfield site, Via Verde consists of a 20-story tower, a 6- to 13-story mid-rise duplex apartment component, and two- to four-story townhouses. Featuring solar panels and a series of green roofs, the development is designed to achieve LEED-Gold certification. Developed by Jonathan Rose Cos. and Phipps Houses, the project is designed by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects.

Via Verde was the winning response to the New Housing New York Legacy competition, the city’s first juried design competition for affordable and sustainable housing

The Community Learning Center had operated for years out of a tiny apartment in a public housing development, getting at-risk kids on track to graduation and college. The Leominster Housing Authority received a grant to cover half the cost of a new 2,000-square-foot facility and arranged with the local vocational/technical high school to provide the labor to make up the difference. Plans were prepared by a high school drafting class, and Abacus Architects + Planners brought its expertise to the project.

The resulting design is a simple barn-like structure with operable south-facing windows for passive solar heating.  The interior is an open space that one teacher can monitor, with “green” particle board partitions to provide individual study areas.  From pouring the slab to hoisting the beams, the firm worked closely with the teenage crew to bring design sketches into reality.  The center is being recognized for excellence in community-informed design.

The New Accessible Passive Solar Housing in Stoneham is receiving the Alan J. Rothman Award for housing accessibility. These units were added to an existing public housing development to boost the town’s inventory of accessible housing.

While all elements of the four-unit building and the site meet the Americans with Disabilities Act and Massachusetts accessibility requirements, other considerations—quality of life, connections to the outside world, and being responsive to the climate—also drove design considerations. The sloping topography was gradedto avoid ramps and double railings that cut off many accessible buildings from the surrounding landscape. It is designed by Abacus Architects + Planners.