Housing for a Changing America

ASLA 2016 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. The Rivermark, Sacramento, CA. Fletcher Studio / image: Mariko Reed

There is a wide gap between the diversity of American households and the housing stock, much of which is homogeneously geared toward nuclear families. Designers working in housing and community design are taking steps to address this disparity in innovative ways, from adapting older building types to make spaces more flexible to rethinking density and the scale of residences. With a changing population, an array of housing models is needed to address all residents’ needs, including those of the most vulnerable populations.

On February 7, 2018, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., hosted a talk on supportive housing solutions, featuring presentations by Rosanne Haggerty, President, Community Solutions; Debbie Burkart, National Vice President, Supportive Housing, National Equity Fund, Inc.; and Jennifer Schneider, Associate Director of Housing Development, SOME (So Others Might Eat).

This program was part of a series complementing the museum’s new exhibition Making Room: Housing for a Changing America, open through September 16, 2018.

The exhibition offers a snapshot of the country’s housing needs, with some statistics that community designers, leaders, and policymakers should take into account as they imagine new ways to meet evolving demands. For instance, a dramatic shift in American households has taken place since 1950—nuclear families were the leading category then, at 43% of households. That percentage has dropped to 20%, while 28% of households are single people living alone—now the largest category.

Inside the National Building Museum’s Making Room: Housing for a Changing America exhibition, open through September 16, 2018 / image: Alexandra Hay

The growing population of single adults often struggle to find housing in markets where two-, three-, and four-bedroom apartments and houses are the most prevalent type available. While developers and platforms like WeLive, Ollie, CoAbode, and Nesterly seek to meet the needs of those seeking different housing arrangements, like roommates for empty nesters or apartment-sharing, new housing models are also emerging to serve a much more diverse population of households.

Elsewhere in the exhibition, key issues like zoning regulations and cohousing are defined and a wide range of case studies are presented, demonstrating a variety of typologies and scales. Projects featuring a significant landscape or public space component include:

The Six
Los Angeles, CA
Landscape Architecture: Brooks + Scarpa; LandStudio 360

Aria Cohousing Community
Denver, CO
Master Planner / Landscape Architect: Wenk Associates

Pacifica Cohousing
Carrboro, NC
Landscape: Joanna Massey Lelekacs

Oslo Shaw
Washington, DC
Landscape Architect: Lila Fendrick Landscape Architects

Baumhouse
Pittsburgh, PA
Landscape Architect: Pashek Associates

The Alley Flat Initiative
Austin, TX
The University of Texas School of Architecture, the University of Texas Center for Sustainable Development (UTCSD), the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation (GNDC), and the Austin Community Design and Development Center (ACDDC)

One University Crescent
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Landscape Architect: Durante Kreuk Ltd.

ASLA 2016 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. The Rivermark, Sacramento, CA. Fletcher Studio / image: Mariko Reed

The February talk on supportive housing solutions explored options that address the needs of vulnerable populations, including veterans; barriers to affordability; and a few creative solutions for chronically homeless populations.

Among other recent trends, the speakers outlined a growing emphasis within supportive housing on providing services for residents on-site and devoting greater attention to how those spaces for services connect with living areas and also to common areas for residents. It is critical for communal areas, both indoors and out, to be welcoming and efficient, helping residents achieve independence through interdependence.

Similarly, there has been a move toward transforming permanent supportive housing into community centers, with designers paying close attention to context and ensuring that housing fits into its community. New, expanded shared spaces provide connection for residents to the outdoors, and also invite the wider community in through events and attractive public amenities.

ASLA 2017 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Northpoint Apartments, San Francisco, CA. JETT Landscape Architecture + Design / image: Misha Bruk

For both new developments and reinventions of older housing, green features are also an important part of supportive housing developments, ranging from cisterns for rainwater harvesting to permeable walkways and green roofs. The Margot and Harold Schiff Residences in Chicago is one example of this green focus, with landscape architecture by Terry Guen Design Associates. The incorporation of sustainable features is accompanied by an increased focus on proactive care and maintenance, with an operations and maintenance manual and training programs for both staff and residents about building features recommended.

ASLA 2016 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. The Rivermark, Sacramento, CA. Fletcher Studio / image: Mariko Reed

During the talk, a few of the key acts of legislation, initiatives, and funding sources mentioned included:

Built for Zero, Community Solutions

Healthy Futures Fund

Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act

HUD Multifamily Programs, including New Construction or Substantial Rehabilitation of Rental Housing: Section 221(d)(4)

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)

HUD Multifamily Programs, including New Construction or Substantial Rehabilitation of Rental Housing: Section 221(d)(4)

Project-based Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers

Are you passionate about the future of housing and community design, and looking to connect with other ASLA members who share your focus? Consider joining the leadership team for ASLA’s Housing & Community Design Professional Practice Network (PPN). We are seeking to reactivate this PPN, and need a few volunteers to get started. Let us know if you’re interested in getting involved!

ASLA 2017 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Northpoint Apartments, San Francisco, CA. JETT Landscape Architecture + Design / image: Misha Bruk
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