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Information for PHAs

Introduction and Background

The Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition is an exciting initiative from HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R). Now entering its sixth year, the competition invites teams of graduate students from multiple disciplines to submit plans in response to a real life affordable housing design issue.

The goals of the competition are:

  • To encourage research and innovation in affordable housing that strengthens the quality of life, social and physical fabric of low- and moderate-income communities and neighborhoods.
  • To increase practitioner capacity to produce more livable and sustainable housing for low- and moderate-income communities through best practices in building design and construction.
  • To foster cross-cutting teamwork within the design and community development process.

After the submission of initial applications, a jury of five industry representatives will select the student team finalists. These finalists, comprised of four teams, will visit the site of the affordable housing design and planning project they are addressing, and further refine their applications. Several weeks after the site visit, all jurors and finalists will travel to Washington, D.C. for the final competition event at HUD Headquarters. At this event, finalist teams will present their revised project solutions in front of the jury and an audience. Following the presentations, the jury will deliberate and select the winners and runners-up. The winning team will receive $20,000, the runner up team will receive $10,000, and the remaining two teams will receive $5,000 each.

PHA Involvement

PD&R will work with a PHA that owns and operates a site that is designated for the student teams. PD&R will work with the PHA to develop the necessary project briefing materials, including a comprehensive problem statement, background information on the project, community information, and relevant existing design proposals. The PHA will also help facilitate a site visit with the student finalist teams. All expenses will be covered by PD&R, but the PHA will need to have some staff time available to host the event. PHA staff will be invited to the final competition event at HUD Headquarters. PD&R and the PHA partner will sign a Memorandum of Understanding outlining all responsibilities of each party.

PHA Benefits and Criteria

  • The PHA will not receive any financial compensation for their participation. While there is no guarantee that the PHA will receive implementable ideas, it is anticipated that the PHA will receive some useful and innovative plans.
  • The PHA shall be located within driving distance to a major airport to accommodate site visit travel.
  • The PHA shall include a description of the physical site. The site can be a currently vacant parcel requiring new construction, or an existing housing development in need of infill, renovation, or expansion to achieve stated community goals.
  • The PHA shall provide HUD with sufficient written background information to provide students with adequate information for producing their initial site plans. Photos and site maps are strongly preferred, as they would facilitate the planning process.
  • The PHA shall provide a clear problem statement to PD&R to ensure the students’ full understanding of the issues that need to be resolved.
  • The PHA must define a goal for a project that aligns with the Department’s mission.
  • The PHA must have staff time available and sufficient capacity to answer questions about the site development and to help facilitate the student visit to the site.


Outreach to graduate schools and creation of the design issue and competition materials will take place in mid-October, and the competition will officially launch in early Fall 2019.

PD&R expects to have a PHA on board by mid-October 2019. It is anticipated that the site visit will occur in early March 2020, and the final competition event at HUD will be held on April, 16, 2020.