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Affordable and sublime: 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing

Multifamily Housing

Affordable and sublime: 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing

These projects prove that it’s possible to develop aesthetically pleasing, high-quality housing for low-income families, the homeless, and veterans.

By Robert Cassidy, Editor | October 12, 2021
The $14 million Pullman Artspace Lofts complex in Chicago has a studio space/gallery and a community space for arts education and after-school programming. Photo: Mark Ballogg
The $14 million Pullman Artspace Lofts complex in Chicago has a studio space/gallery and a community space for arts education and after-school programming. Photo: Mark Ballogg

The statistics are grim. According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, nearly half of all renter households (20.4 million) spent more than 30 percent of income on housing in 2019; 17.6 million households spent more than 50 percent. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reported that there were only 37 affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households nationwide in 2019.

Then there are the homeless—580,466 by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s last count (January 2020); of these, 37,252 were veterans. HUD estimated that 1.4 million people slept in homeless shelters at some point in 2018. During the 2016-17 school year, 1.35 million children experienced homelessness at some point, reported the National Center for Education Statistics.

Despite the grim statistics, energetic developers, nonprofit groups, and their design and construction teams are finding ways to build housing that is not only affordable, but aesthetically pleasing and environmental responsible as well. Let’s take a look at 13 of them.


1. CAPITOL VISTA | Washington, D.C.

1. Capitol Vista1 - Screening Room
Artwork in Capitol Vista’s screening room emphasizes African-American culture. Other amenities: a clubhouse, fireplace lounge, and community kitchen with pantry. The project is Enterprise Green Communities v2015 certified and Energy Star compliant. Photo: Jennifer Hughes Photography

Located eight blocks north of the U.S. Capitol, Capitol Vista provides 104 studio and one- and two-bedroom rentals ($1,131 to $1,354/month): 21 at 30% AMI, 83 at 50% AMI. The $50 million enterprise may be unique in having Black owners (Dantes Partners), a Black property manager (Faria Management), and a Black interior designer (Determined by Design, founded by Kia Weatherspoon, NCIDQ, ASID, a Building Design+Construction 2020 “40 under 40” honoree). Grimm + Parker (architect) headed the team: SK+A Structural Engineers (SE, CE); Wiles Mensch Corp. (CE, landscape design); Century Engineer (MEP); MaGrann Associates (sustainability); and Hamel Builders (GC).




HopeWorks Station North Cafe Interior
Kindred Kitchen, a culinary training café and kitchen (above), GroundWorks Landscaping, and ReNewWorks Home and Décor retail store offer workforce development at HopeWorks Station North. Photo: Benjamin Benschneider Photography

This four-story, net-zero-energy, LEED for Homes Platinum apartment complex has been selected for the Living Future Challenge affordable housing pilot and participated in the LEED Multifamily Midrise pilot to demonstrate compliance with Washington State’s Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard. Its 532 solar panels generate 198,000 kWh/year. GGLO and Dykeman Architects (designers) steered the $17.7 million project for HopeWorks Social Enterprises, with Beacon Development Group (development consultant), O’Brien360 (sustainability consultant), and Kirtley-Cole Associates (GC). The 65 studio and one- and two-bedroom units house homeless youth and veterans earning 30-50% AMI.



3. THE AYA | Washington, D.C.

The Aya affordable housing complex, Washington, d.c.
A safe indoor play area/activity space at The Aya, which provides emergency housing for families at risk. Amenities include laundry facilities, private and family bathrooms, a federally qualified health service clinic, community rooms, and outdoor play areas. Photo: Anice Hoachlander

The Aya offers emergency housing for up to 50 families—largely mothers with young children—in Southwest Washington. Each color-coded floor has 7-10 units; adjoining rooms can be linked via lockable doors to accommodate families up to 12. The joint venture of LEO A DALY and Studio Twenty Seven Architecture designed the $21 million center for the D.C. Department of General Services. Silman Associates (SE), A. Morton Thomas (CE), Setty & Associates (MEP), and Blue Skye Construction (design-build contractor) contributed.



4. FOUR TEN LOFTS | Baltimore, Md.

Four Ten Lofts exterior
Moseley Architects (architect) designed Four Ten Lofts for Episcopal Housing Corporation and French Development (developers) and Towner Management. Assisting were Columbia Engineering (SE), KCW Engineering Technologies (CE), Craig Richmond Landscape Architecture, Pando Alliance (sustainability consultant), ATI Inc. (accessibility consultant), and Southway Builders (GC). Photo: Paul Burke Photography

Designed for artists and the homeless, this $14.2 million complex, in the Bromo Tower arts and entertainment district, provides eight three-bedroom apartments in one building and 68 one- to three-bedroom units in a second structure. The latter building has a two-story gallery, sound rooms for musicians, an art workroom, and a spray booth. All rooms come fully furnished; United Way outfitted the apartments with bedding, towels, dishes, and small appliances. Energy Star Multifamily and National Green Building Standard certification were achieved.



5. LINEAGE | Alexandria, Va.

5. Lineage INT Kitchen KTGY Home Visit
Kitchen/dining/living space at Lineage. KTGY (architect) skippered the project team for the Alexandria (Va.) Redevelopment and Housing Authority: Alliance Engineers (SE); Walter L. Phillips Inc. (CE, landscape architect); SSA Engineering (MEP); Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger (building envelope); Phoenix Noise & Vibration (acoustics); Access Partnership (accessibility); Viridiant (sustainability); and Carlson Construction (GC). Photo: HomeVisit 

In 1942, the U.S. Housing Authority constructed 15 apartments for African-American war industry workers and their families in the historic Parker-Gray District of Alexandria, Va. The precast modernist units remained in use as public housing until 2018, when they were deemed beyond repair. The KTGY-led project team leveraged the FAR requirements to garner 52 units on the 0.71-acre site: 15 at 30% AMI, 11 at 50% AMI, and 26 at 60% AMI. Six units at the $12 million complex are fully accessible. Lineage earned EarthCraft Gold certification.




Pullman Artspace apartment complex
The brickwork, mansard roofs, and dormers of the restored historic structure were complemented by the new brick structure. Photo: Lee Bay

Two abandoned 19th-century landmark apartment buildings were renovated and a new building inserted between them to create 18 one-bedroom and 20 two-bedroom lofts for working artists (60% AMI) in Pullman, a planned community that was the home of the Pullman Car Company in the late 1800s; it was named a National Monument in 2015. Stantec (architect) captained the team of Pepper Construction (CM/GC) and Brown & Momen (CM) for owner/developer Pullman Artspace LLC and co-developers PullmanArts and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives.



7. PATH METRO VILLAS | Los Angeles, Calif.

7. PATH Aerial - Jonathan Ramirez, ArchLens Photography
PATH Metro Villas offers community rooms, resource centers, and a housing placement office. Veterans’ services, vocational training, a teaching kitchen, and mental/community health clinics are available in an adjacent space. It has three buildings arranged around a public outdoor garden. Photo: Jim Simmons Photography

This two-phase enterprise provides 186 studios and one-bedroom units and supportive services for veterans, seniors, and the homeless in the Rampart Village section of Los Angeles. The developer, PATH Ventures, had to secure a zoning change from light industrial to residential. KFA Architecture (architect) worked with Englekirk Engineers (SE); KPFF Consulting Engineers (CE); ME Engineers (MEP); Irvine & Associates (land planner); Landscape Images (landscape architect, Phase 1); AHBE|MIG (landscape architect, Phase 2); and Walton Construction (GC).




8. Villas at Ridgeway Yonkers
Villas at the Ridgeway earned LEED Silver honors for its high-performance building envelope, low-e Energy Star windows, water-saver faucets and showerheads, and high-efficiency cooling, heating, and lighting (LED). Each apartment in the property has its own private entrance. Photo: © Ari Burling, courtesy Magnusson Architecture And Planning

This redevelopment replaced three derelict public housing buildings with 70 two- to four-bedroom apartments at 30%, 50%, and 60% AMI, plus some market-rate units, using 40X16X10-foot modular units fabricated off site. Magnusson Architecture and Planning helmed the project for The Community Builders (developer), with LMW Engineering Group (SE), Philip Habib & Associates (CE), Johnson & Urban (MEP), Terrain-NYC (landscape architect), Steven Winter Associates (sustainability consultant), and JoDi Realty (builder). They also renovated a daycare center that serves the neighborhood.




RKTB Architects designed Phoenix Estates II for Nos Quedamos and MHANY Management (owners). Engineering Group Associates (SE), Abraham Joselow PC (mechanical engineer), Yona Love Consulting Services (expeditor), and Galaxy General Contracting (GC) were on the project team. Photo: © Albert Vecerka|Esto, Courtesy RKTB Architects

RKTB Architects took advantage of NYC’s 2016 Zoning for Quality and Affordability rules to gain 45% greater FAR for this 102,000-sf mix of 100% affordable senior (48) and family (60) apartments. The senior units are distributed throughout the six- to eight-story L-shaped complex. The $33 million transgenerational enterprise has a 7,100-sf yard and ground-floor space for two art galleries.



10. FROST TERRACE | Cambridge, Mass.

FROST TERRACE | Cambridge, Mass.
The restored Second Empire–style William Frost House fronts the new structure at Frost Terrace. (The church is an art museum owned by Lesley University.) The project team: Bruner/Cott Architects (designer); L.A. Fuess Partners (SE); BSC Group (CE); Petersen Engineering + R.W. Sullivan (MEP/FP/FA); McArdle Gannon Associates (geotechnical); Loureiro (environmental engineering); ASAP Environmental (environmental testing); Acentech (acoustics); Wiss, Janey, Elstner (waterproofing); United Spinal Association (accessibility); Kalin Associates (specifications); Code Red Consultants (building codes); and Keith Construction (GC). Photo: Robert Benson Photography

Bruner/Cott Architects inserted a three-story structure amid four restored single-family edifices to form a transit-friendly complex with 40 100% affordable (30-60% AMI) studio and one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. Eight of the apartments have been set aside for Section 8 vouchers. The developers, Capstone Communities and Hope Real Estate Enterprises, used the Commonwealth’s Chapter 40B speedy permit process to get all approvals in one step. They are targeting LEED Multifamily Midrise Gold.



11. WARLEY PARK | Sanford, Fla.

WARLEY PARK | Sanford, Fla.
The $19 million Warley Park has a walking trail, splash pad and playground, a food pantry, a commercial kitchen that can be used to train residents for restaurant jobs, and computer labs for use by residents. Photo: Wendover Housing Partners

As Central Florida’s first permanent supportive housing community, Warley Park offers 81 one- and two-bedroom apartments for homeless individuals and families. On-site services (provided by Step Up on Second) include mental healthcare, job training, GED classes, and after-school programs. Wendover Housing Partners (developer) was assisted by Slocum Platt Architects and Roger B. Kennedy Construction.




The community garden and patio offers a place of respite for Winton Gardens residents. Community Preservation Partners (owner) also provides computer training and classes in financial literacy,  housekeeping awareness, personal development, and health and nutrition. Photo courtesy CPP

Originally built in 1973, these twin 11-story towers had deteriorated into a crime-ridden hot spot. Community Preservation Partners bought the property in 2018 and, with Rochester’s Cornerstone Group, invested $28.5 million in Energy Star appliances, LED lighting, energy-efficient PTACs, high-efficiency elevators, and security and accessibility upgrades. The 55+ community offers 200 units (425-525 sf) at 30% AMI, six at 60%. Ebesoldt Associates Architecture (designer) and Katerra (builder) performed the work.



13. FAIR OAKS COMMONS | Redwood City, Calif.

FAIR OAKS COMMONS | Redwood City, Calif.
Alta Housing (developer) earned LEED Gold for its use of solar water heating and solar area lighting, drought-tolerant landscaping, and metal sunshades and awnings to reduce heat gain. Photo: Patrik Argast, ASMP

This $42 million complex was the first in San Mateo County to get one-stop approval under California’s SB 35. Its 67 living units (59 furnished) serve families, veterans, and the homeless (30-70% AMI). On-site service agency John Stewart Company provides job readiness programs, financial planning courses, and case management. Dahlin Group (architect) piloted the team: LUK and Associates (CE), Emerald City Engineers (MEP), The Guzzardo Partnership (landscape architect), and L&D Construction (GC).

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