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Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition
Site Visit to Houma, Louisiana

Photograph of 16 students surrounding around a large sign marking the Bayou Towers property.
On March 18, 2015, the four student finalist teams visited the project site, the Bayou Towers senior housing high rise in Houma, Louisiana.

HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) is managing the second year of the Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition (IAH2015). The competition aims to encourage research and innovation in affordable housing, raise practitioner and future practitioner capacity, and foster cross-cutting team work within the design and community development process. PD&R first launched the competition in early 2014 and challenged multidisciplinary teams of students to respond to a real world issue involving design, planning, finance, and large community elements. The 2014 competition centered on veteran’s housing and was so successful that PD&R renewed the competition for an additional five years.

This year, PD&R has partnered with the Houma-Terrebonne Housing Authority (HTHA) to focus on Bayou Towers, a senior housing high rise in Houma, Louisiana. First occupied in 1971, Bayou Towers is 11 stories and contains 300 dwelling units. The aging infrastructure has led HTHA to look for a gut rehab of the existing building or a new construction in order to ensure that seniors in Houma have access to safe, affordable rental housing. Student participants will need to consider design, community development, and financing elements in order to provide an all-encompassing plan and solution that would allow HTHA to meet their goal. They will also need to understand the needs of the intended residents, the zoning restrictions, and leveraging opportunities.

A jury of practitioners narrowed down the submissions to a group of four student finalist teams, and on March 18, 2015, the finalists traveled to Houma to visit the project site and community. The site visit provided a valuable opportunity for students to walk through site, view the topography, and see the surrounding neighborhood. Students were able to talk to Bayou Towers residents and representatives from the resident council, who shared their wishes and requests for what should be included in the new site. Executive Director of the Houma-Terrebonne Housing Authority, Wayne Thibodeaux , served as host for the day and helped lead the students on a two hour tour of the city. Diana Edmondson, Director of the Terrebonne Council on Aging, allowed students to visit a senior center during the tour and see other senior housing developments, enabling the students to understand the full spectrum of services available to seniors in the Houma-Terrebonne community.

The site visit also served as an opportunity to discuss the second phase of the competition, in which the finalists will be asked to further define and detail their innovative plans for the project site. They will present these final plans at an event at HUD Headquarters in Washington, DC on April 21. The jury will deliberate before the winner and runner-up are announced.

The public is invited to attend this final competition event either in person or via webcast. More information and registration can be found here.