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The 2020 Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition

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The 2020 Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition

Rendering of Yale University’s winning plan, Jacobo Commons, showing buildings around a path with play equipment where children are playing.Yale University’s winning plan, Jacobo Commons, connected the community with the surrounding area using multimodal transportation strategies and provided services that families with children need.

Yale University Wins First Place; University of Maryland, College Park Is the Runner-Up

This year’s Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Student Design and Planning Competition challenged students from the four finalist teams to create innovative housing that preserved and celebrated the unique culture of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The teams had to balance several factors when developing their final plans, including the planning context (that is, zoning requirements), local economic conditions, a feasible financing plan, the built environment, and the larger social needs of the community.

In March, the four teams — the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Maryland at College Park; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Yale University — traveled to Santa Fe while confronting the possibility of school closure due to COVID-19. The students spent an entire day with staff from the Santa Fe County Housing Authority, local builders, architects, artists, politicians, and financial specialists to learn about the unique challenges of building in Santa Fe. In addition, the students had a chance to tour the development site — a 6.6-acre vacant parcel. The housing agency plans to use the site to provide much-needed housing for families with children. The students’ challenge: to apply innovative design principles to build units that honor Santa Fe’s Pueblo and Spanish cultures while being financially feasible and energy efficient. The students used what they learned from the site visit to refine their proposed plans for a final presentation at this year’s awards ceremony.

Presentation slide showing a rending and 3D building plans of 2 buildings.The community plan for Jacobo Commons.

The 2020 IAH Student Design and Planning Competition awards ceremony was a virtual event held on April 16, 2020. This year’s competition additionally challenged the students to develop their innovative designs and site plans while scattered across the country and remaining isolated. Despite the tough conditions, the teams delivered outstanding presentations for the project site, making the task of choosing a winner and a runner-up difficult. The four finalist teams presented their ideas to a panel of jurors representing the planning, architecture, and homebuilding industries. HUD staff, invited guests, and members of the public were invited to view the event, which was livestreamed on YouTube. As in previous years, each student team delivered a 20-minute presentation addressing the economic, social, and environmental challenges of the development site. The students then had 10 minutes to field questions from jury members.

Acting Deputy Secretary/Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner Brian Montgomery noted the importance of the competition “to inspire young professionals to become practitioners who apply innovative solutions to real-world challenges, and the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to solving problems in affordable housing.” He congratulated the finalists for delivering designs that were well thought through and plans with real-world applications. In addition, HUD Secretary Ben Carson commended the students for making “a compelling case for new, forward-thinking strategies that expand affordable housing opportunities for all families through innovative design.”

Presentation slide showing six unit floor plans and a rendering of the interior of one of the units.The unit plans for Jacobo Commons.

Yale University’s winning plan, Jacobo Commons, connected the community with the surrounding area using multimodal transportation strategies, including bike and walk lanes. The plan also provided services that families with children need, such as an onsite childcare center, nurse, market, and a gym. Head juror Robert Hazelton noted that the Yale team’s plan “featured an aesthetically beautiful design capturing local design elements and customs while fostering energy efficiency and sustainable features. Their multigenerational focus brought in universal handicap design elements, access to local food markets, a health-daycare center, and thoughtful community congregation areas. The Bulldogs innovatively included a Year 15 exit strategy of converting portions of the property to a Limited Equity Co-op, providing a method for tenants to build sweat equity or pay-in over their resident tenure to achieve future homeownership.” The Yale team was awarded $20,000 for its winning proposal.

The jurors selected the University of Maryland, College Park as the runner-up team. The team’s project, Nueva Acequia, featured 208 units of multifamily, townhouse, and multifamily housing. Residents of 14 of the townhome units have the opportunity to own their units in year 15. The University of Maryland was awarded $10,000 for their proposal. An overview of their plan is pictured here.

The two remaining teams, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the University of California, Berkeley, each were awarded $5,000.

Presentation slide showing a map, a 3D rendering of buildings, and a rendering of a building exterior.An overview of the plan created by the University of Maryland, College Park.

At the end of the competition, Joseph Montoya, executive director of the Santa Fe County Housing Authority, commended the students’ hard work and their contribution toward finding innovative solutions to the affordable housing challenge that Santa Fe confronts: “Beyond the exceptional work and expertise that HUD staff, consultants, and jurors brought to the table, it was a joy to work with young, positive professionals who passionately pushed some exciting ideas. We will definitely be questioning some of our original assumptions and viewpoints with a fresh outlook as we move forward.”

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

The 2021 IAH competition will commence this fall.

Published Date: 4 May 2020

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.