Skip to main content

The 2022 Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition

Featured Article
HUD USER Home > PD&R Edge Home > Featured Article
HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing: Student Design & Planning Competition

The 2022 Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition

Alaina Stern, Social Science Analyst, Office of Policy Development & Research

The 2022 Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Student Design and Planning Competition partnered with Atlanta Housing (AH) to challenge the competitors to create innovative solutions for redeveloping the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center.

Aerial view of the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center.Site map of the civic center property, including the 1) auditorium, 2) exposition center, 3) plaza, 4) Stormwater vault, 5) Southface Institute.

The student teams were asked to develop design and financial proposals to convert 13.12 acres of developable land into a vibrant, mixed-use community that includes affordable and market-rate housing along with office, retail, hospitality, and open space that seamlessly integrate into the existing cultural facilities.

The four finalist teams balanced several factors, including the local planning context (that is, zoning), local economic conditions, the area’s historic and cultural significance, the built environment, and the larger social needs of the community, to create their final proposals, which needed to include a feasible financing plan for their developments.

In March, the four finalist teams — Team Oski and Team Gold, both from the University of California Berkeley; the University of Maryland Team from the University of Maryland; and Team KU 1 from the University of Kansas — traveled to Atlanta for a 2-day site visit, accompanied by Calvin Johnson, deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Research, Evaluation, and Monitoring in HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R), and PD&R staff. Students toured the civic center facilities, the surrounding property, and the Southface Institute. Teams explored the inside of the auditorium, including a large performance hall that once seated nearly 4,600 patrons and the exhibition space, which formerly held arts and sciences exhibits and more recently was used for studio productions. After the tour, local officials, AH executives, AH financing and planning partners, city commissioners and council members, neighborhood residents, and affordable housing advocates gathered outdoors to offer their insights about the site. Many speakers and guests discussed the significance of the site, which has not been open to the public for many years; shared personal stories; and discussed their hopes and aspirations for the site.

Photo of students, guest speakers, and HUD staff gathered in the plaza in front of an auditorium.Students, guest speakers, and HUD staff gathered in the plaza in front of the auditorium.

The awards ceremony was held virtually on April 13, 2022. HUD invited staff, special guests, and members of the public to view the live event. The four finalist teams presented their ideas to a panel of jurors representing the planning, architecture, financial, and homebuilding industries. As in previous years, each student team delivered a 20-minute presentation on how their plans respond to the economic, social, and environmental challenges of the site. The students then had 10 minutes to field questions from jurors.

Dominique Blom, general deputy assistant secretary of HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing, welcomed the students and encouraged them, stating, “I hope that this competition has inspired you to begin your careers in housing and community development, because we need people like you in this field.” Shortly afterward, Adrianne Todman, HUD deputy secretary, congratulated the teams and shared her hopes for the students. “It is a glance in the future, for me, of the people who will be taking over the reins of leadership [from] those of us who have been leaders for years and years. And for some of us, I dare say, decades and decades,” said Todman. “So, for me, this is a glance into the future of the folks who will be taking the baton. I am hopeful, and it's not impossible, that amongst you all here today there might be a future HUD secretary, or even a future HUD deputy secretary.” Eugene Jones, Jr., president and chief executive officer of AH, offered his sincere appreciation for the students’ hard work and their enthusiasm about the site’s potential, remarking, “There is an incredible opportunity here to preserve some of the [civic center’s] history, to preserve the performance hall, and to bring life [to] something new and cutting edge that will serve those in need and contribute to Atlanta's vibrancy as a growing hub for creativity.” Jones reassured the students that AH will incorporate their ideas into the final design, commenting, “I can't wait to see what you have created.”

Deputy Assistant Secretary Johnson announced the winning and runner-up teams for the competition.

Illustration of building designs.Rise of the Pines, the winning proposal from the University of Maryland Team.

Rise of the Pines, the winning proposal from the University of Maryland Team, is an innovative socioenvironmental approach that employs emerging green building techniques and comprehensive financial strategies to prioritize the people who live in community and neighborhoods near the site. The jurors commended the winning plan for incorporating thoughtful and purposeful architecture, sustainability initiatives, and human-centered design.

Mariela Alfonzo, founder and chief executive officer of State of Place, remarked that the plan’s design “was very human centered and, from a sustainability perspective, a really innovative use of land” and that the proposal “really utilizes the topography of the site, which is one of the things that I think is just really excellent and innovative about it too. It took something that was a real challenge for the site and completely flipped it.” Cody Owens, housing preservation specialist for the Dominion Due Diligence Group, said, “I thought they had a wonderful focus on construction and design and their use of [cross-laminated timber] was innovative…I also really liked the focus they had on…the inclusion of low-income families into this mixed-income community.” Dana Cuff, director of cityLAB and professor in the Department of Architecture and Better Urban Design at the University of California Los Angeles, further praised the plan, stating that “their attention to the community was amazing.”

The University of Maryland Team will receive a $20,000 award for its winning proposal.

This year’s runner-up team, the University of California Berkley’s Team Gold, for its Civic Oaks proposal, which focused on equity, sustainability, and neighborhood connectivity through active community engagement that is inclusive and responsive to historical context.

Illustration of building designs.
Illustration of building designs.
Students from the University California Berkeley are this year’s runner-up team for their understating and incorporation of community engagement in their Civic Oaks proposal.

Jaime Bordenave, founder and president of The Communities Group and this year’s head juror, remarked on the proposal’s incorporation of community input and resident voices in every detail of the plan, noting that “36 percent of their units are three bedrooms, which they said was input they got from the community and that was their biggest need.” Jesse Wiles, principal and chief executive officer of APD Urban Planning and Management, stated that the proposal’s “40,000 square feet of landscaped space within the site was impressive” and noted the plan’s use of green areas for “spaces that are a kind of a gathering spot with a number of multiple uses — I think those spaces are highly engaging, and they seem to have accomplished that.”

The University of California Berkley, will recieve $10,000 as the runner-up, for their proposal.

The two remaining teams — Team Oski from the University of California Berkeley and Team KU 1 from the University of Kansas — were awarded $5,000 each.

By initiating and funding this competition, HUD hopes to support aspiring practitioners in the fields of architecture, planning, policy, and finance to advance affordable and sustainable housing for low- and moderate-income Americans.

Next year will mark this competition’s 10th anniversary. As we close out another successful year and look towards the 2023 IAH Student Design and Planning Competition, we reflect on the importance of continuing this effort to expand housing opportunities for all and inspire the next generation of professionals to focus on affordable housing issues.

The 2023 IAH competition will commence this fall.

Please join us at the 2022 Innovative Housing Showcase! HUD will be hosting the Innovative Housing Showcase on the National Mall on June 10-12, 2022. The Showcase will feature innovative designs and technologies that have the potential to increase housing supply and lower the cost of construction and ownership. Check out in the coming weeks for updates on this upcoming event.

Published Date: 2 May 2022

The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.