If you had a modest amount of money, say an extra $2,500, to spend anywhere at an affordable housing project, where would you put it?

AHF asked several architects and developers to share their ideas for where they would get the most bang for the money. The suggestions varied from adding a bocce ball court at a seniors development to upgrading the energy efficiency at a home. Boosting curb appeal is another popular choice.

Manny Gonzalez, architect and principal of KTGY Group in Los Angeles:

Manny Gonzalez

While $2,500 isn't a lot to work with, depending on the location, one idea would be to buy several "community bikes."  Have them all the same color and perhaps the community logo somewhere.  Something like the rental bikes you see these days. You could probably set it up so the key fob for the room would unlock the bike too so that you would know who checked it out.  I am not sure that would work on a seniors project though, and with the $2,500 there I would build a bocce court. In one community we worked on there are three courts, and they now have more than 60 bocce teams that compete in tournaments there twice a week!  Full disclosure ... I am 60 myself and have a bocce court at my home and love the game!

Matthew Rieger, president and CEO of the Housing Trust Group in Miami:

On landscaping and curb appeal. That first glimpse, that first look, is so important.  I think landscaping and curb appeal are hugely important

Ron Lloyd, founder and president of RDL Architects in Cleveland:

Ron Lloyd, president RDL Architects, Inc., Digital Echo Photography Image #1027.jshergalis@gmail.com
(Photo by Jan Shergalis) Ron Lloyd

An additional $2,500 would best be utilized to improve a dwelling’s energy efficiency and sustainability. How that sum is applied most effectively depends upon the type of structure proposed. For example, if one were to construct a single-family home, $2,500 may go toward enhanced envelope insulation, more efficient windows, or upgrades to the dwelling’s heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and hot water generation systems. This investment thus will sustain the structure’s affordability over time through reduced costs to operate and maintain, reduced consumption of energy resources, and improved quality of the dwelling’s interior environment.

Orlando Artze, COO of Community Housing Partners in Christiansburg, Va.:

With the additional $2,500 we would do additional landscaping. The landscaping would enhance our marketing efforts.

Richelle "Shelly" Patton, principal at Tapestry Development Group in Decatur, Ga.:

I would install a beautiful fountain in the front of the property. I strongly believe that all people, regardless of income, deserve to live in a home and a community with areas of beauty. These areas, like a decorative fountain, not only provide inspiration and respite, but they also communicate to its residents and the surrounding neighborhood that the tenants are deserving of dignity. In addition, a fountain can communicate to the surrounding neighborhood that the affordable property can be a beautiful asset, not a drain/drag/negative, in the neighborhood.  

A former colleague and I talked about installing a fountain at our developments for years. Finally in 2010, I was able to include one in the front entry area at an affordable senior property in a blighted neighborhood. It has been a focal point for the front facade of the property and is a key feature of what makes tenants proud to live there.