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On the Road to the 2024 Innovative Housing Showcase


Keywords: Innovative Housing Showcase, Manufactured Housing, Affordable Housing, Decarbonization, Zoning, Public Housing, Multifamily Housing, Sustainability, Housing Redevelopment, Modular Housing, Housing Finance, Community Development

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On the Road to the 2024 Innovative Housing Showcase

Solomon Greene (left) and Tanaya Srini (right).Solomon Greene, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research (left) and Tanaya Srini, Senior Advisor for Innovation for Policy Development and Research (right).

Tanaya Srini, Senior Advisor for Innovation, Office of Policy Development and Research, and Solomon Greene, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research

The 2024 Innovative Housing Showcase is almost here! From June 6 to June 9, 2024, leaders in the building materials and construction industry, technologists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and policymakers nationwide will convene in Washington, DC, to showcase their innovative approaches to making the nation’s housing more abundant, affordable, and sustainable. The showcase is HUD’s largest annual public event, where visitors can explore cutting-edge models and methods of building housing to meet our nation’s current and future needs. Although this year’s showcase continues the themes and builds on lessons learned from our three previous events, we are excited to announce new partners — including a record four co-presenters — and priorities that we believe will make the 2024 Innovative Housing Showcase the best yet.

A single-family house.The home developed by Detroit Land Bank Authority, using MSHDA Mod financing. Photo credit: Stephanie Hume, Detroit Land Bank Authority

As in past years, the exhibits on the National Mall will demonstrate a range of construction techniques and their applications to various housing types, including single-family manufactured homes, accessory dwelling units, and tiny homes. This year, however, we are building on what we've learned in previous showcases and expanding our offerings. For example, we will feature a duplex manufactured home assembled on the Mall, a first for the showcase. This year's educational programming continues the key themes from past showcases: boosting supply, lowering construction costs, strengthening climate resiliency, increasing energy efficiency, and reducing housing-related expenses for residents. This year, however, in addition to being hosted in a new venue — the District Architecture Center in the city's Penn Quarter neighborhood — our educational programming will spotlight both the federal government's role in facilitating cross-sector collaboration and the local implementers who have delivered housing innovations in their communities.

To source contributions from local innovators, we introduced a new aspect of preparation and planning for this year’s showcase: the Road to Innovation Tour. Over the past few months, leaders from HUD and the Office of Policy Development and Research toured several affordable housing projects throughout the country, each demonstrating innovative approaches to construction, energy efficiency, financing, and resident services. Most of these projects received support through HUD funds and programs; others benefited from HUD’s past investments in the research and development of innovative building technologies. HUD’s history of investing in innovation dates back to Operation Breakthrough in the early 1970s, which contributed to the development of the first national building code, the HUD Code for Manufactured Housing, and, with it, the growing importance of manufactured housing in bolstering our nation’s affordable housing supply. The Road to Innovation Tour was inspired by HUD’s interest not only in understanding how the nation’s affordable housing providers are revolutionizing their building materials, building technologies, financing, service delivery, and energy efficiency but also in identifying additional actions HUD can take to spur and accelerate housing innovation.

The tour group standing in front of a house.The tour group outside the DLBA x MSHDA Mod property on April 8, 2024. Photo credit: Stephanie Hume, Detroit Land Bank Authority

The Road to Innovation Tour began in the Midwest, with visits to 3D-printed and modular homes in Detroit, Michigan and Minneapolis, Minnesota, before continuing to the Pacific Northwest to tour net-zero and Passive House developments in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. We concluded the first leg of the Road to Innovation Tour in the Northeast, with visits to energy-efficient developments in Yonkers, New York, and Jersey City, New Jersey; the latter development, Summit Plaza, is an original Operation Breakthrough site that recently was redeveloped. Read on for key insights from our first four tour stops.

Leveraging innovation for impact requires collaboration across sectors and scales.

Every project we toured demonstrated the power of strong partnerships, particularly in navigating the increasingly challenging landscape of affordable housing development. For example, in 2019, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) launched the MSHDA Mod pilot program, the state’s first modular housing development program, to build public support for modular housing and help meet the state’s growing demand for starter homes. Under this now-permanent program, MSHDA partners with local governments, developers, and financial institutions to jump-start modular construction across the state. Although MSHDA identified modular construction early on as a promising strategy to drive down housing development costs, it recognized that a lack of available construction financing and limited comparable properties in the market were deterring developers from adopting it. To jump-start modular construction in the state, MSHDA Mod provides catalytic capital for placing manufacturing deposits and transporting materials, costs that were more difficult for developers to cover with traditional financing. The MHSDA Mod program also focuses on seeding construction in lower-income neighborhoods where new construction is less common. In Detroit, MSHDA partnered with the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA), the city’s land bank, to develop a parcel near Michigan Central Station and the newly minted Innovation District. MSHDA’s flexible financing, structured as a repayable grant, allowed DLBA to assume the risk that accompanied the use of a newer construction technique, and DLBA’s local expertise in site preparation and responding to site conditions ensured that the single-family design was suited to the neighborhood’s architectural fabric. The project’s total development costs were approximately 30 percent lower than those of comparable properties in the area, and DLBA plans to pursue additional modular construction projects.

The tour group standing in front of one of the Family Housing Expansion Project developments.The tour group outside of one of the Family Housing Expansion Project developments in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 10, 2024. Photo credit: Abbie Wilson, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority

For the Family Housing Expansion Project (FHEP), the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) turned to modular construction methods to convert 16 scattered sites that were previously zoned for single-family homes into 84 units of deeply affordable housing. The city of Minneapolis was instrumental to the project’s success by both contributing funds and articulating a vision through the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan eliminated single-family zoning citywide, which allowed higher-density development on the sites that would address the city’s acute need for more family-sized units. In addition to the fruitful collaboration between MPHA and the city, completing the project would not have been possible without a combined request for proposals (RFP) that required the successful bidder to preassemble a development team consisting of a general contractor, architect, and modular builder at the project’s outset. (You can read more about this process innovation here.) This approach gave the development team a substantial head start in addressing the significant logistical challenges associated with developing 16 sites simultaneously. FHEP also was made possible by the MPHA’s status as a HUD Moving to Work (MTW) agency, which grants public housing agencies such as MPHA increased flexibility to use project-based vouchers to finance development projects and ensure their long-term affordability.

The best housing innovations today are powered by the communities served and grounded in their history.

For the Belfry Apartments in Minneapolis, the Yesler Terrace redevelopment project in Seattle, and the Albina Vision Trust projects in Portland, significant community engagement during the predevelopment phase resulted in innovative projects that acknowledge and honor each site’s history. Belfry Apartments is a new development providing 41 units of deeply affordable housing on the site of the Cavalry Lutheran Church, which had been struggling to maintain its congregation while continuing to operate its food assistance program, the Calvary Food Shelf, from its basement. The project’s developer, Trellis, recognized the importance of maintaining the food shelf and community gathering spaces that the church had previously provided. In recognition of this previous use, Belfry’s resident community spaces are sited in the church’s sanctuary and are leased back to Cavalry for twice-weekly worship services. Trellis also enhanced the space for the food shelf, which remains in operation in the basement of the residential space. This innovative project was financed using federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, the Minneapolis Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and HUD project-based Section 8 housing vouchers administered by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.

The tour group walking through the Yesler Terrace redevelopment.On a walking tour of the Yesler Terrace redevelopment on May 8, 2024. Photo credit: Vanessa Krueger, HUD

With support from HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Program, the Seattle Housing Authority began its redevelopment of Yesler Terrace in 2013. Yesler Terrace was the country’s first racially integrated public housing development and was home to Seattle’s poorest families for nearly 70 years. The redevelopment process was informed by several years of robust community engagement and a community-led visioning effort, including the formation of a Citizen Review Committee. Insights gained through the process have informed various aspects of the development; chief among these are granting previous residents the right to return and phasing in new building developments to avoid displacing all existing residents simultaneously. The community also informed the siting of affordable units within the mixed-income developments to ensure that even the lowest-income residents could maintain the views of Puget Sound that they previously enjoyed. Original Yesler Terrace residences each had their own yards, which many residents used to grow food and for entrepreneurial ventures such as home-based daycare services. Although the Seattle Housing Authority could not preserve these individual green spaces in the new, more densely developed Yesler Terrace, the redevelopment plan included an expanded community garden and residential units licensable for home-based daycare services. While honoring these past uses, the Yesler redevelopment project also has increased the development’s housing supply by a factor of 10. Some of the buildings within the Yesler Terrace development, such as Sawara, also feature cutting-edge upgrades to improve energy efficiency, which will significantly reduce residents’ utility costs.

The inside of one of the buildings in the Albina neighborhood.On a tour with Albina Vision Trust on May 10, 2024. Photo credit: Vanessa Krueger, HUD

The Albina Vision Trust (AVT) is still in the early stages of its plan to redevelop the Albina neighborhood in northern Portland, which historically housed most of the city’s Black population before massive urban renewal projects displaced nearly all residents and housing units, but community engagement and honoring the past are key elements of the project team’s vision for its success. AVT already has created a Community Investment Plan that unites the Black community’s vision for the neighborhood with concrete financial investments that prioritize Black business incubation and enrichment opportunities for Black youth. The master plan project, which is the nation’s largest restorative redevelopment project, also includes reimagining the I-5 highway corridor, which caused significant community dislocation in its development, with a highway cover created in partnership with the Oregon Department of Transportation. To bring this plan to fruition, AVT recently was awarded a $485 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Reconnecting Communities Fund, the largest such grant from this federal program. Reconnecting Communities is a first-of-its-kind initiative designed to reconnect communities that are cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions. According to the department’s Acting Undersecretary, Christopher Coes, AVT’s plans to reclaim Portland’s historically Black neighborhood is “the perfect example of not just connecting a neighborhood, but creating something new.”

Continuous learning inspires continued innovation

Another commonality that emerged among the projects we visited on the Road to Innovation Tour was the idea that continuous learning is key to fostering housing innovation. For the team developing the Orchards at Orenco project just outside of Portland, continuous learning meant adapting the project’s design specifications as the development team became more comfortable with Passive House standards to further drive down costs. Changing the massing of the development’s second building from an L-shape to a bar design allowed the developers to maintain the number of units but spend considerably less on insulation for the building’s envelope, thus delivering a second Passive House-compliant building with a 5 percent reduction in costs. The project represents the largest multifamily project built to Passive House standards in North America and was financed in part using federal tax credits and HUD project-based vouchers.

The dual resident community room – sanctuary space in the Belfry Apartments.Standing in the Belfry Apartments dual resident community room – sanctuary space on April 10, 2024. Photo credit: Abbie Wilson, Minneapolis Housing Authority

Although the 16 FHEP sites in Minneapolis were developed simultaneously, MPHA cites numerous lessons about how to maximize MTW flexibilities to make future modular scattered sites pencil. In fact, MPHA plans to develop hundreds of additional units using the FHEP model to dramatically increase the density of the city's public housing stock.

We are thrilled to support continued learning for housing practitioners at the Innovative Housing Showcase, which will feature dynamic discussions among housing leaders representing the public, private, and government sectors on a diverse set of pressing topics in housing innovation, including offsite construction, building codes, manufactured housing, decarbonization, zoning, public and multifamily housing, resilient design, and finance. The programming is free and open to the public and will also be livestreamed. We hope you enjoy this sneak preview of the 2024 Innovative Housing Showcase and look forward to seeing you from June 6 to June 9 in Washington, DC!

The project details in this article were shared with HUD officials Solomon Greene, principal deputy assistant secretary for policy development and research, and Tanaya Srini, senior advisor for innovation at the Office of Policy Development and Research, during tours of each project. The Detroit tour took place on April 9, 2024. The Minneapolis tour took place on April 10, 2024. The Seattle tour took place on May 8, 2024. The Portland tour took place on May 9 and 10, 2024. ×

Published Date: 28 May 2024

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.