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Cityscape: Volume 16 Number 2 | Article 6


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

Designing Better Designers: Families First

Katie Swenson
Enterprise Community Partners


Affordable housing design has evolved significantly during the past several decades. The needs of communities have changed. The roles and responsibilities of designers, developers, and policymakers have also evolved—sometimes in response to the needs of the communities they serve, other times in response to market forces. This article contemplates the perspective and evolution of the role of the designer, focusing on developments from the past 10 to 15 years. Looking through the lens of the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship, a 3-year fellowship that pairs an emerging designer with a host community development organization, I share valuable insights and lessons learned that could be leveraged into a new normal for affordable housing design practice. In particular, I argue that collaborative design is no longer about one-way community engagement; it is about twoway, long-term, place-based community relationship—designers living in the communities that they serve. In addition, I suggest that good design in affordable housing is incomplete without the supporting infrastructure that provides access to transportation, employment, renewable resources—electricity, water, and food—and the positive human interaction of a thriving neighborhood. Good design goes well beyond the physical and temporal boundary of a completed building. To move the affordable housing industry forward, we must first design better designers—designers who see the part and the whole, the individual and the community, the house and the neighborhood, and the past and the future.

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