The 2021 Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition
Alaina Stern, Social Science Analyst, Office of Policy Development & Research
Pratt Institute & New York University Team Wins First Place; University of Michigan & Harvard Team Is the Runner-Up
The 2021 Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Student Design and Planning Competition partnered with Fresno Housing Authority (FHA) to challenge teams to create innovative workforce housing solutions for residents of Firebaugh, California.
The competitors were asked to redevelop housing units from five contiguous properties and create a single, cohesive community.
The four finalist teams balanced several factors in their final plans, including the planning context, local economic conditions, building constraints unique to a rural community, a feasible financing plan, the built environment, and the larger social needs of the community.
In March, the finalists — Columbia University; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and two collaborative teams (the University of Michigan with Harvard University and New York University with Pratt Institute) — joined staff from HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) and FHA for a virtual site visit to help students understand the vision and goals of the project from local stakeholders. Students engaged with FHA staff, local officials, site managers, employers, health providers, and residents. FHA’s former chief executive officer, Preston Prince, welcomed the students and described FHA’s mission and the objectives for this project. Michael Duarte, chief real estate officer for FHA, offered students key insights, challenges, and important considerations as they refined their plans for the final presentation and awards ceremony.
The 2021 IAH Student Design and Planning Competition awards ceremony was held virtually on April 14, 2021. HUD invited staff, special guests, and members of the public to view the event live. The four finalist teams presented their ideas to a panel of jurors representing the planning, architecture, financial, and homebuilding industries. As in previous years, each student team delivered a 20-minute presentation addressing how their plans respond to the economic, social, and environmental challenges of the development site. The students then had 10 minutes to field questions from jurors.
Ben Winter, PD&R’s deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development, announced the 2021 IAH Student Design and Planning Competition winning and runner-up teams. Following the announcement of the winning teams, Jen Jones, chief of staff for the Office of the Secretary, noted that “the students here today have made a case for new and forward-thinking strategies that help to expand affordable housing opportunities for all families through innovative design.” Jones congratulated all four finalist teams and commended students for their hard work on behalf of Secretary Fudge. “We need your ideas, we need your creativity, and we need your energy if we are going to be able to meet the affordable housing challenges that we are seeing today. The Secretary and I are excited to see what you do next,” said Jones.
The Pratt Institute and New York University team’s winning plan, “A Breathable Connected Community,” addresses the intergenerational and agricultural needs of the community. The team’s design included a comprehensive financial package and attention to environmental sustainability.
Kia Weatherspoon, president and design advocate at Determined by Design, praised the plan, saying, “[I]t was small language tweaks and how they build a connection. And even the use of the building on top, to me, they could have played it safe, but they still did something very, very dynamic with this accessible walkway throughout that gave you a third space outside of just the traditional gardens and community areas and vegetation. I did love that they refreshed the interiors and the unit mix.”
Head juror Rob Hazelton, chief executive officer of the Dominion Due Diligence Group, noted that the winning design was “the only one that reused La Joya, the existing commons, which the housing authority has about $1.4 million already socked into that redevelopment efforts, plans, designs, and approvals. They actually [used] that. And I appreciate that.”
The Pratt Institute/New York University team will receive a $20,000 award for their winning proposal.
A team of students from the University of Michigan and Harvard University were this year’s runner-up for their understanding of the detailed financing scheme as well as their attention to phasing for onsite relocation. Hazelton noted that he “like[d] the RAD/SAC blend. They are the only ones that understood that complex financing scheme.” An overview of their plan is pictured here.
The University of Michigan/Harvard University team was awarded $10,000 for their proposal. The two remaining teams — University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Columbia University — each were awarded $5,000.
PD&R dedicated the 2021 IAH competition to Rachelle Levitt, the founder and creator of this competition. We would like to honor her vision and hard work, which made the competition a continued success. As we look ahead and welcome ideas for a 2022 IAH Student Design and Planning Competition, we reflect on the importance of continuing this effort to expand housing opportunities for all and inspire the next generation of professionals to focus on affordable housing issues.
By initiating and funding this competition, HUD hopes to support aspiring practitioners in the fields of architecture, planning, policy, and finance to advance affordable and sustainable housing for low- and moderate-income Americans.
The 2022 IAH competition will commence this fall.