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Cityscape: Volume 16 Number 2 | Article 2


The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Form Follows Families: Evolution of U.S. Affordable Housing Design and Construction

Volume 16, Number 2

Mark D. Shroder

Michelle P. Matuga

What Affordable Housing Should Afford: Housing for Resilient Cities

Lawrence J. Vale
Shomon Shamsuddin
Annemarie Gray
Kassie Bertumen
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Well-designed affordable housing involves more than the provision of safe, decent, and inexpensive shelter; it needs to be central to the resilience of cities. Framing the issue as a matter of "what affordable housing should afford" expands the agenda for housing designers to consider factors that extend beyond the physical boundaries of buildings and engage the social, economic, environmental, and political relationships that connect housing to cities. To maximize its capacity to support the resilience of cities, affordable housing should engage as many as possible of the following four criteria: (1) support the community social structure and economic livelihoods of residents, (2) reduce the vulnerability of residents to environmental risks and stresses, (3) enhance the personal security of residents in the face of violence or threats of displacement, and (4) empower communities through enhanced capacities to share in their own governance. We illustrate these principles with four examples from recent practice—two illustrating the struggle for everyday affordable housing (in San Francisco and in Iquique, Chile) and two describing the special circumstances that result in the aftermath of disaster (in New Orleans and in Banda Aceh, Indonesia). Taken together, these examples demonstrate what is at stake if we ask affordable housing design to serve the greater goal of city resilience.

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