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The Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition, An Interview with Claire Desjardins

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The Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition, An Interview with Claire Desjardins

In this article, Claire Desjardins, a Program Analyst in the Office of Policy Development and Research and the program manager for the Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition, discusses the competition, which is currently entering its third year.

Image of the 2016 IAH logo.
Multi-disciplinary graduate student teams participating in HUD’s Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Student Design and Planning Competition submit proposals in response to a real-life planning and design challenge faced by a public housing authority.

What is the Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition or IAH?

IAH is a competition intended to encourage research and innovation in affordable housing that fosters cross-cutting teamwork within the design and community development process. HUD partners with a public housing authority (PHA) to create a real world planning and design scenario that multidisciplinary graduate student teams must respond to. A panel of jurors narrows down the first round of submissions to four finalist teams, who then travel to visit the competition site. After expanding their project proposals, the finalists present their ideas at HUD headquarters in Washington, DC in front of the panel of jurors and a live audience. After the jury deliberates, HUD senior leadership announces the winner and runner-up.

Why does PD&R sponsor the competition?

First, we know graduate students have great ideas. This competition can bring some of these creative ideas into the national spotlight and add to the larger conversation on best practices in affordable housing. Second, we want to raise the discourse about affordable housing among graduate students. Additionally, our multi-disciplinary team requirement ensures that not only planners – but those with architecture, finance, real-estate, business, and other concentrations will be thinking about affordable housing. This cross collaboration simulates the real world workplace and enforces the fact that affordable housing development requires dedicated and creative practitioners from a variety of fields.

Who can participate and form a team?

Any graduate student enrolled in a degree program from an accredited educational intuition in the United States may participate. Teams must have between three and five members, and at least three of the members must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Teams must also have a designated faculty advisor but can be made up of students from different universities. Anyone is who looking for a team or additional team members can post on our new team finder forum.

Why should busy graduate students participate?

IAH is a great real world experience that adds to participants’ resumes. It is an excellent opportunity to create a solution to a real planning and design issue while still in graduate school. Also, there is prize money! The winning team receives $20,000 and the runner up receives $10,000, though, due to federal regulations, students who are not US citizens or permanent residents cannot receive prize money. The competition is also a lot of fun! Finalists enjoy meeting other talented graduate students, traveling to the competition site and speaking with local leaders, as well as presenting their final projects in Washington, DC.

What is the focus of this year’s competition IAH 2016 and where is the site?

This year’s focus is on affordable family housing. The exact site of the family housing development will be revealed in December when team registration closes.

That sounds interesting. What are some examples of past affordable housing and design issues and sites for the competition?

Our inaugural year, IAH2014, focused on housing for formerly homeless veterans and we partnered with the Housing Authority of Bergen County to examine a site in Emmerson, New Jersey. IAH2015 focused on senior housing. We partnered with the Houma-Terrebonne Housing Authority to redesign a senior housing high rise in Houma, Louisiana. We know this year’s focus on family housing and our new PHA partner will lead to an equally interesting and successful competition!

Where can interested parties find more information?

Check out our competition video, visit the IAH website, and search Twitter for #IAH2016.

Is there anything else about the competition you would like to add?

Registration is now open! Teams can register anytime between now and December 10, 2015 at 6:00pm ET. We are excited to build on the success of the past two years of competition and expect this to be the best year yet!