Header Image for Print

IAH Banner

Please note: It has been brought to our attention that conflicting information has been provided regarding the La Joya Commons development. Examples of the conflicting information are seen in the following statements from previous answers to submitted questions:

  • Fresno Housing is open to the idea of starting fresh at La Joya Commons and accepting an alternative redesign
  • Teams should treat the La Joya Commons development as moving forward in its current form and address how it will be part of a cohesive neighborhood

To resolve this conflict, it has been determined by HUD that teams may choose to

  1. Provide new plans for the La Joya Commons development as part of their overall Phase I submission (to include financing information on La Joya Commons)
  2. OR

  3. Treat the La Joya Commons development as moving forward with the plans provided in the supplemental resources and only address how it will become part of the overall cohesive neighborhood (no financing information for La Joya Commons to be included).

Jurors will be advised that there is no preference for either option, submissions containing new plans and financing will be scored on the same scale as are submissions that do not include new plans and choose to treat the development as moving forward with its current set of plans, therefore, one option does not provide an advantage over the other.

Please note, each teams’ narrative submission for Phase I should begin with a statement about their treatment of La Joya Commons to provide reference for jurors. The statement should read (or be similar to):

  • “Team [your team number] chose to redesign and include financing information for the La Joya Commons development.”
  • OR

  • “Team [your team number] chose to treat the La Joya Commons development as moving forward with their pre-existing plans and address how it will become part of the overall cohesive neighborhood.”

Explanation or defense of the team’s choice is not required or needed, as there is not a preference for one over the other.


All questions must be submitted to IAH@huduser.gov. Questions and answers will be posted to this page in a timely manner.

Q&A added January 11, 2021:

Q: If we repurpose/redevelop an existing property (in this case the migrant center) is there a possibility for us to receive floor plans of the buildings?
A: The plans for Maldonato Plaza Migrant Center can be accessed by using this link.


Q: The Competition Guidelines mention that sources and uses should be the focus for the Phase 1 financial submission. Can you please confirm that the income and expenses and the cashflows tabs [of the pro forma] are expected to be completed as well for Phase 1?
A: While sources and uses should be focused on, the income and expenses and the cashflows tabs should also be completed.


Q: Regarding the new proposal for La Joya commons, do we know if they have requested that parcel to be upzoned? We are curious as to how they are proposing that density (17 units / acre) as it's not allowable by the current R2 density (which would allow for 13 units / acre). Have they requested an upzoning from R2-R3?
A: We do not have information from Fresno Housing about requests for upzoning. Your team can incorporate a request to upzone in your proposal. Teams should treat the La Joya Commons development as moving forward in its current form and address how it will be part of a cohesive neighborhood.


Q: Should we assume the La Joya Commons development will be funded on its own and would not need to be considered by our team for this project?
A: Yes, you can assume the La Joya Commons development will be funded on its own and funding for it does not need to be considered by your team for this project.


Q: What are the square footage guidelines for each apartment size? (studio, 1-bed to 4-bed)?
A: Please see the City of Firebaugh’s zoning regulations document and review California building codes to determine this information.


Q: Can we submit multiple pro forma documents for each phase of the project? We saw in the Q&A section teams are able to add tabs to the original template and we're wondering how to make it simplest for the judges to understand!
A: Only one Excel file should be submitted, but you are permitted to add tabs, or sheets, to the template. Please be sure that the final cost for the phases are included and that the total cost of the completed project is included.


Q: The pro forma references the NHHFA policies to determine the reserves minimums. Is that referring to the New Hampshire Housing Finance Agency? Should we use the most recent California Housing Finance Agency's reserves policies?
A: Yes, this was a mistake on the pro forma template. It has been updated to reference the CAHFA policies on the Google Drive.


Phase I Q&A

Q: Would it be possible to get a breakdown of the AMI unit mix for each development (i.e. how many units are at each 60% AMI versus 50% and so on)? If this breakdown could also be by unit, that would be even better.
A: The 2020 Income Limits for Low-Income Public Housing (LIPH), which permit households with income up to 80% percent of AMI, can be found here and here.

  • La Joya Commons (fka Firebaugh Family) – Market Rate (USDA Limits)
  • Cardella Courts – LIPH
  • Firebaugh Elderly – LIPH
  • Maldonado Plaza Migrant Center – Migrant housing
  • Mendoza Terrace I and II– LIPH


Q: Can we get the current unit mix for La Joya Commons? The only information provided about the site is the proposed development plan and the proposed unit mix.
A: The existing unit mix at La Joya Commons (fka Firebaugh Family) is:

  • 6 – 2 bedroom units
  • 22 – 3 bedroom units
  • 6 – 4 bedroom units


Q: Could we get a breakdown of how many units are vacant and if possible know that by unit size/AMI and which of the parcels they are in?
A: Current vacancy includes:

  • Mendoza Terrace I: 2 – 3 bedroom units
  • Mendoza Terrace II: 3 – 2 bedroom units, 1 – 3 bedroom unit, 4 – 3 bedroom units
  • Cardella Courts: 1 – 2 bedroom unit
  • Firebaugh Elderly – 0 vacancy
  • Maldonado Migrant Center (Farm Labor) – Seasonal
  • La Joya Commons (fka Firebaugh Family) – 0 vacancy


Q: Can we request that roads be de-mapped in our site plan proposal?
A: Yes, your team can include the de-mapping in your proposal.


Q: Are there minimum unit sizes required by Firebaugh or Fresno County?
A: Please see the City of Firebaugh’s zoning regulations document. This document should have the information you are looking for, or you can use the information provided to calculate it.


Q: Can the proforma be modified with additional tabs, etc.?
A: Yes, the pro forma can be modified.


Q: Could you please clarify if we should treat La Joya Commons project as moving forward as proposed or if we can explore alternative development ideas?
A: Fresno Housing is planning to move forward with the development of La Joya Commons as proposed.


Q: What is expected in the Phase I submission?
A: Teams should submit:

  1. A three-page (maximum) narrative including rationale and understanding of the community and planning needs. The written narrative (PFD or Word) to be on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper, single-spaced and in a legible font (e.g., Times New Roman). The font size should be 11 pt. Set document margins to 1 inch on all sides.
  2. A four-page (maximum) presentation/graphic including drawings, schematic floor plans, or any other graphics to visually convey the tenants of the team’s solutions. These can be submitted in a PowerPoint, PDF or other presentation document. Slide One MUST include the site plan.
  3. The completed financial Pro Forma (template provided by HUD) focusing on sources and uses.
    Please see the Phase I Submissions section of the Competition Guidelines for more information.


Q: When are Phase I submissions due?
A: The submission deadline is noon (Eastern) on Monday, January 25, 2021. The submission portal will be closed at 12:01 pm on January 25, 2021. Late submissions will not be accepted.


Q: One of my teammates needs to drop out of the competition due to extenuating circumstances. Is it possible to change/replace the teammate?
A: Yes, team members may be dropped or replaced (if there are at least 3 remaining team members that meet the eligibility requirements). See eligibility requirements in the Competition Guidelines.
Changes to teams must be made no later than noon (Eastern) on January 18th, 2021.

To make changes please email IAH@huduser.gov with the following information:
Team ID number:
Name of team member to be replaced:
Information for new team member:
First Name:
Last Name:
Degree Program:
Graduation Year:
Email address:
Phone Number:
US Citizen or Permanent Resident? (Yes/No)


Q: Are we able to modify aspects of the pro forma submission to present our intended financing strategy?
A: The pro forma is a guideline for the teams to use. Each team should complete it but can provide supplemental financing information. Jurors use the Pro Forma to ensure the project is viable.


Q: Should teams be acting as developers or is Fresno Housing the developer? We want to make sure our report takes an appropriate tone and stance.
A: Fresno Housing is the developer.


Q: If we choose to pursue LIHTC funds, will you need to see our application plans for conformance under the California QAP?
A: You do not need to provide the application but should present evidence on how your proposal meets the California QAP.


Q: The prompt primarily emphasizes connectivity and unity of the five scattered housing sites. Are we supposed to only consider site plans and site modifications, but not modifications to the buildings and units themselves? Or is rehabilitation or demolition and new construction an option for us to consider?
A: Demolition and new construction are options for the building units themselves.


Q: Should we consider and/or utilize the existing plans for redeveloping La Joya Commons? Is it something we can incorporate if we want or instead redesign and present an alternative for that site that might better incorporates with our plan for the remaining sites?
A: Plans for La Joya Commons may be used, it is noted that the current plans for this site include demolition of the units on existing 6 acres, new construction back on 4 of those acres with 2 acres remaining for innovative ideas. Because La Joya Commons has not committed funding at this time (it is still early in the process), Fresno Housing is also open to the idea of starting fresh at La Joya Commons and accepting an alternative redesign.


Q: Does the financial structure we are creating/submitting for the competition have to use existing entities as partners in this endeavor, or do we create a plan for the competition with fictional entities (ex: using names like CDE 1, NMTC Lender A, Developer 1, etc. for the Pro Forma)?
A: The financial structure should use real entities and sources. The pro forma is what the jurors will use to determine your project’s is financially viability, so it should use real-world sources. You should include as much detail as you feel is needed to accurately illustrate the viability of your project to the jury.


Q: Who currently owns the land? The land appears to be owned by the Fresno Housing Authority, but then there was other material saying that one site had already been acquired (meaning the others have not been acquired?).
A: Fresno Housing Authority owns the land.


Q: Are we allowed to have hypothetical project partners on our submission? Can we name a "real world" company that can deliver elements of our design? Can we quote the company as a partner in support of our design to add realism to the proposal?
A: Yes, you can use a real company and/or a real quote from a company in your proposal.


Q: The guidelines include an AMI threshold our proposal must meet, is there also a specific count of housing units or square footage our proposal needs to meet? For example, is there a percentage increase in housing units we should meet, or is it up to us how many more housing units we add?
A: It is up to your team to decide to add housing units, and how many housing units to add.


Q: Can we contact the Fresno Housing Authority for additional insights on the local context?
A: Page 6 of the Competition Guidelines document (under the "Questions" heading) states: No phone calls or other contact is allowed with HUD, the partnering housing authority, or to competition jurors. Teams contacting HUD, the partnering housing authority, and/or jurors will be eliminated.


Q: After examining the provided documents, there is no indication on the measurements and dimensions of the site of the project. I have looked at the site specific documents but none of those files contain dimensions of the site proposal. I would appreciate your clarifications.
A: By looking at the supplemental documents provided by Fresno Housing - particularly each complex's specifications that are found in the "Site Specific Docs" folder and the measurements found on page 7 of the PDF titled Map of All Sites you should be able to determine the site's overall dimensions and total acreage.

Please note: A development called "Firebaugh Family" is highlighted on page 4 of the Map of All Sites PDF. Firebaugh Family is now named La Joya Commons. A site plan with elevations is included in the supplemental material in the 'La Joya Commons' folder. The proposed La Joya Commons development (fka Firebaugh Family) is 68 units on 4.0 acres of land. There is 2.0 acres adjacent that will become vacant due to this development. I want to note the site plan provides the total acres and measurements of the parcel.

Teams should treat the La Joya Commons development as moving forward in its current form and address how it will be part of a cohesive neighborhood. The vacant adjacent 2.0 acres should be part of their proposal to develop.

A title report for La Joya Commons that includes a parcel map with measurements on pg. 8 has been uploaded to the Google Drive folder for review. Teams might find conflicts between the La Joya Commons site map and parcel map measurements, which is expected; sometimes, the parcel map record is not accurate due to age and is corrected during the pre-development process.


Q: What is the vacancy rate at each of the five Firebaugh Public Housing sites? How long is the waitlist for each of the five sites? What are the demographics of current residents by age, family size, employment rate, race/ethnicity, and language spoken at each of the five sites?
A: Fresno Housing has not provided this information in their supplemental resources, therefore the questions you have asked should be researched independently by your team.


Q: A) The proposed La Joya Commons plan shows a 7' CMU wall which separates it from the 2 acres of land to be developed. Can we propose to remove the wall in order to better incorporate the 2 acres in our proposal? B) do you know why the 2 acres were left vacant in the first place?
A: A) It is up to each team’s discretion to decide if they would like to propose removing the wall that is currently between La Joya Commons and the vacant two acre area. There aren’t any stipulations from Fresno Housing that say the wall must stay or that it must be removed. B) Fresno Housing did not indicate why the two acres in question have not been developed, but they did state that the two acres should be part of teams’ proposal to develop.


Registration Q&A

Most Recent Questions

Q: Can a multidisciplinary team of eligible graduate students be supported by a select multidisciplinary group of undergraduate students?

A: The team must be composited of graduate students only. The students that support the team are up to each school’s discretion, but only graduate students are eligible to participate and compete in the competition.

Q: Is there a limit to the number of teams from one academic institution?

A: Up to 5 teams can apply from each school (first come first served based on date of registration). Please keep in mind that multiple Phase I submissions do not guarantee being selected for Phase II. The final four teams for Phase II are selected by a panel of impartial jurors in a blind review.

Q: I am interested in participating in the competition this year, but my university does not have an architecture or design program. Is there a way I can still meet the cross-disciplinary team requirements? Can I work with students from other universities that have an architecture program?

A: Yes, we encourage you to work with graduate students from other universities to fill the multidisciplinary requirement. You can find potential team members by using the Team Finder Forum on the competition website.

Q: Will teams from different universities that choose to form a combined team still be held to the maximum number and configuration of students as the rest of the teams?

A: Yes, all teams participating must meet the competition’s eligibility requirements regardless of their university affiliation.

Q: Given the multidisciplinary nature of the competition, can a team have more than one Faculty Advisor?

A: Teams can only have one faculty advisor on record when they register with HUD. The advisor on record (along with the team members) will receive communications from HUD about the competition. The number of faculty that can work with a team is up to the discretion of the university or college.

Q: Is the project topic geared around the HAs needs / requirements? Or is this a standalone project?

A: Multi-disciplinary teams comprised of graduate students in architecture, planning and policy, finance and other areas will be asked to address social, economic, and environmental issues in responding to a specific housing problem developed by an actual public housing agency (PHA). The needs and requirements are defined by the PHA, HUD Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) works with the PHA to develop the necessary project briefing materials, a comprehensive problem statement; background information on the project; community information; and relevant existing design proposals. Each year the competition is different based on the needs and location of the PHA, therefore it is a stand-alone project.

Q: Is there any prize money for winning teams?

A: The winning team receives $20,000; the runner-up team receives $10,000; the two remaining finalist teams each receive $5,000.

Q: Is it possible to join the competition as an international graduate student if all other team members are US citizens?

A: Yes, as long as at least three members of your team are US citizens or permanent residents, you can participate as an international student.

Q: Where in the country will the homes be built? Will we be working with a large or small PHA?

A: The partnering PHA will be announced after registration closes, on or about November 2, 2020. At that time the PHA’s location, size and community information will be provided to teams.

Q: Are we allowed to hold (remote) community/public engagements to find out the needs and desires?

A: Yes, but please keep in mind per the competition guidelines, team members (student team members and/or faculty) are not to have contact with HUD, the partnering housing authority, or to competition jurors. Teams contacting HUD, the partnering housing authority, and/or jurors will be eliminated.

Q: Will we have regular meetings with the stakeholder/client?

A: No, per the competition guidelines, team members (student team members and/or faculty) are not to have contact with HUD, the partnering housing authority, or to competition jurors. Teams contacting HUD, the partnering housing authority, and/or jurors will be eliminated.

Q: Are there any travel subsidies?

A: Travel expenses for both the site visit and final event will be paid for two members of each finalist team. Additional team members are encouraged to attend; however, travel costs will not be covered and will need to be arranged independently.

Q: In the event someone drops out are we able to replace that person without penalty?

A: During Phase I we will announce a final date to submit changes to teams. This includes additions and replacements of team members.

Q: Are past competitions submissions public?

A: Past competition submissions are not public, but you can find case studies on previous winner and runner up submissions on the Past Competitions page of the IAH website.

Q: Is this an annual competition?

A: Yes, the HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Student Design and Planning Competition is annual. Registration opens in the fall. Please check https://www.huduser.gov/portal/challenge/home.html for updates on the competition schedule.

Q: Please clarify the programs considered to be “architectural or design related.”

A: Architectural and design related fields include urban planning, engineering, environmental science, public policy, architecture, and most of the social sciences including economics.

Q: Are all team members required to be graduate students?

A: Yes, all students must be enrolled as graduate students to qualify for the competition.

Q: Do team members have to be enrolled in full time graduate courses? For example, can someone in a Co-Op Ed program, Concurrent, Residency or Dissertation student be part of a team?

A: If the student is registered as a graduate student, then it does not matter what part of the program they are in.

Q: Is a student’s minor considered as one of the required disciplines?

A: Yes, the student can register as a team member, since s/he is currently enrolled in graduate school and is minoring in one of the required disciplines.

Q: Can a student compete if they are graduating before the end of the competition? (E.g., a student is graduating in December.)

A: Unfortunately, no. Team members must be enrolled in graduate courses at the time of the Phase I submission – Jan. 25, 2021.

Q: Do you send notification once a team completes registration?

A: Yes. Upon submission of IAH team registration form, a confirmation email is sent to the Team Leader's email address from “helpdesk@huduser.gov” with a subject line of “Registration Confirmation.”