The bar for the quality of architectural design in affordable housing is being raised. In most instances, new affordable housing developments are indistinguishable from higher-end market-rate communities, no longer looking like the boxes of the past.
“What we’re seeing now is a continued improvement of the quality of the design for affordable housing,” says Fernando Villa, a principal at Magnusson Architecture and Planning. “It should look as beautiful as any market-rate project. You really want to push the envelope in design with a limited budget.”
Michael Wiencek, president of Wiencek + Associates Architects + Planners, agrees. “No matter what the budget, we should be able to win an award. If you don’t hit the envelope and create innovative ways [to achieve] higher end, you end up with the affordable housing of the past.”
Architects also work to ensure that developments connect with the surrounding community as well as residents’ needs.
“Being creative is a necessity because it’s not just about building housing or apartments, but about creating a home and a community that work for residents in harmony with the broader neighborhood,” says David Obitz, design principal at KTGY Architecture + Planning.
Looking ahead, David Baker of David Baker Architects says modular construction will receive stronger consideration. “It’s maturing and cutting a year off a construction schedule and saving some money. Site building is primitive,” he says, adding that modular building has its challenges, but it still is proving to be more efficient.
Read about more innovative design in affordable housing on the following pages.