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The 2019 Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition: University of Maryland Wins the Student Competition for a Second Year in a Row

HUD Secretary Ben Carson (far left) stands next to five students from the University of Maryland, College Park on stage in front of a banner stating “HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition.”HUD Secretary Ben Carson joins students from the University of Maryland, College Park team, who took home the top prize for the IAH competition again this year.

The 2019 HUD Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Student Design and Planning Competition Awards Ceremony was held on April 17, 2019, at HUD Headquarters in Washington, DC. Before a panel of jurors, the four finalist student teams presented their ideas for the Rex, the San Antonio Housing Authority’s new, mixed-use development for low- and moderate-income residents to be built on a site along the San Antonio River Walk.

HUD staff, invited guests, and members of the public attended the event, with many others nationwide viewing the presentations via webcast. For the second year in a row, the University of Maryland, College Park won the top prize, and the University of California, Berkeley was selected as the runner-up. The jurors commended the remaining two finalist teams — Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and Yale University —for their outstanding presentations and sound, creative ideas. All the students were congratulated for their creative proposals that focused not only on the building itself but also on its integration with the neighborhood as well as its mix of services and amenities. Because the students knew that the site would be slated for new construction, their proposals explored creative strategies for increasing density, which jurors agreed was beneficial.

Brooklyn Bend, University of Maryland, College Park

The University of Maryland was awarded the grand prize of $20,000. The team’s proposed plan, Brooklyn Bend, employs the urban village approach to create a community within a community that emphasizes the connections between people and these valuable spaces. The plan embraces integration, not isolation. Although the transit center, community gardens, health facility, and ample green space for recreation and beautification projects are all noteworthy features of the Maryland plan, the feature that most impressed the jurors was the use of modular construction along the River Walk to add density while reducing construction costs. The addition of solar panels would also reduce energy use, particularly on the southernmost side of the building, where the sun is brightest. The jurors commended the team members for their inventive yet streamlined approach to site design that is financially feasible and offers practical solutions that the housing agency could implement. The students also introduced high-quality, sustainable, and low-toxicity building materials that reduce operating and maintenance costs and enhance resident health.

University of California, Berkeley

The runner-up team, the University of California, Berkeley, received a $10,000 prize. Their proposal, Rio Crossing, centers on cultivating a new community with a range of market-rate and below-market options for renter- and owner-occupied housing. Jurors noted that the most innovative aspect of the team’s project was the incorporation of energy-efficient features into every aspect of the property, including a retention pond that could be used with bioswales, double-paned windows with low-e glass, and electronic heat pump water heaters. They also pointed out that the buildings framed and secured the site well, with openings at both the River Walk and the neighborhood to encourage entry and interaction. Using car stackers for parking preserves open space for recreation and other activities. Jurors also noted the team’s approach to sustainability through the application of passive house design principles. The jurors praised the completeness of the team’s financial assumption spreadsheet as well as the project’s balance of uses, incomes, and rental/ownership opportunities.

Acting Deputy Secretary Brian Montgomery praised the students for their outstanding presentations, encouraging them to continue to find innovative solutions to affordable housing challenges. Secretary Ben Carson, who announced this year’s winners, emphasized the importance of public-private collaboration and breaking down silos to accomplish HUD’s goal of expanding housing opportunities for all Americans. Collaborative efforts are necessary for long-term sustained commitment to making our communities more viable places to live and work.

Following the announcement of the winning teams, Secretary Carson, along with Acting Deputy Secretary Montgomery and the Office of Policy Development and Research’s General Deputy Assistant Secretary, Todd Richardson, recognized the other finalists — Yale University and Virginia Tech — and congratulated the students for their hard work.

Secretary Carson reiterated the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to developing innovative solutions to real-world, affordable housing problems. “While HUD programs have made large impacts in communities across the country,” he said, “HUD does not do our work alone. We need our capable partners throughout the industry, and we need a constant stream of new ideas, such as those seen today. These four teams have presented outstanding, avant-garde proposals. And their submissions inspire hope that we can embrace innovation to advance HUD’s mission of creating strong, resilient, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.” As we look ahead to the coming year and welcome ideas for the 2020 IAH Student Design and Planning Competition, we are reminded of the importance of continuing the search for innovative strategies to expand housing opportunities for all.