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5 Ways to Keep Affordable Housing Both Affordable and Great to Live In

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Building affordable housing is fraught with obstacles. Let’s start with the most obvious one: budget constraints. Communities also worry that the often-ugly buildings will lower the value of surrounding properties. A lot of times, they wouldn’t be wrong.

There are strategies around this, thus enabling more people to live in safe, affordable housing that supports a productive lifestyle.

1. Put Your Best Facade Forward

One of the biggest reasons affordable housing gets such a bad reputation is because they look like affordable housing: boxy, forbidding structures that seem designed to accommodate as many people as possible, for as low a cost as possible. The materials look cheap, and the workmanship is mediocre at best.

By extension, its residents are also ostracized by the community at large, and the structure becomes the furthest thing from home-like.

Fortunately, low-cost housing development has evolved into much more than simply providing a roof over people’s heads. Today, much more thought is put into integrating residents with the broader community and empowering them.

For example, Parkview Terrace for senior housing in San Francisco features undulating glass windows that echoed “the traditional bay window rhythm” of the city.

Put Your Best Facade Forward
Parkview Terrace by Fougeron Architecture, San Francisco

Not only does this design create visual interest at no added cost, it also increases floor space.

On the other hand, BONDY in Paris presents a “soothing” facade of wood, with sliding shutters that “animate the four sides of the building, depending on the weather and the time of the day.”

BONDY by Guerin & Pedroza Architectes, France
BONDY by Guerin & Pedroza Architectes, France

The architects have successfully conveyed the sense that the building is a living group of residences, and not just a “pile of boxes.” Additionally, it allows for lots of sunlight, improving energy efficiency and well-being.

2. Utilize Off-Site Construction and Pre-Fabrication

Architects have long advocated for modular building, for many reasons: It dramatically lowers costs, there’s better quality control, and it shortens build time so people can move in quickly.

This technique has been successfully used in affordable housing projects like Carmel Place in New York City (formerly My Micro NY).

Carmel Place by NArchitects, NYC
Carmel Place by NArchitects, NYC

In Los Angeles, Brooks + Scarpa has collaborated with Plant Prefab to create the Nest LivingHomes “toolkit.” It’s a set of modules that can be put together into different configurations that are scalable and can adjust to specific locations’ needs and conditions.

In Los Angeles

The team has even created a few models to showcase the system’s range and flexibility, from a temporary shelter in which rooms hold multiple beds, to permanent housing that offers studio up to two-bedroom apartments,

Nest Living Homes Toolkit models

3. Integrate Missing Services

As mentioned earlier, affordable housing development has gone on to not just provide places to sleep, but also empower its residents. Low-income neighborhoods often lack services and utilities that developers have successfully addressed in several different ways.

The Jonathan Rose Companies, for example, has integrated Paseo Verde in North Philadelphia with numerous healthcare facilities such as a clinic and a pharmacy. It’s also situated right next to the Temple University Station (a major transit hub) and has resident gardening beds that help supplement the food supply.

Paseo Verde resident gardens by Jonathan Rose Companies
Paseo Verde resident gardens by Jonathan Rose Companies

Arbor House in the Bronx also maintains a hydroponic rooftop garden to grow produce, and so does 60 Richmond Street’s sixth floor terrace in Toronto. In addition, the latter has a resident-owned and operated restaurant and training kitchen that offers both food and skills.

60 Richmond Street, by Teeple Architects in Toronto
60 Richmond Street, by Teeple Architects in Toronto

4. Standardize Design and Workflows

One way to cut down on low-income housing costs is by reducing labor. Efficient project management practices are key.

Clearly laid out, step-by-step processes that dictate exactly what needs to be done when and what comes after is one example. You can build workflow templates that can be reproduced and adjusted to every new project.

Standardize Design and Workflows

Creating a standard catalogue of material selections is another way to make your project more efficient. Not only does it shave off product specification hours, it also helps you maintain and improve relationships with your trusted suppliers.

Additionally, cutting down on time and costs leaves you more room to be creative with design, so you can build something that’s not only profitable, but also something that you’ll be proud to have in your portfolio.

5. Integrate Your Workflows and Collaborators

Just like it’s important to integrate an affordable housing project and its residents into the neighborhood, it also behooves your firm to integrate all its workflows.

For example, the ability to both specify products and procure them from one platform saves you a lot of time and drastically reduces errors.

Integrate Your Workflows and Collaborators

Having all your stakeholders in one place — including not just your design and procurement teams but also your contractors and clients — ensures that everyone is on the same page and always updated. No more asking for the latest, most updated spec sheets, or asking whether floor installations are finished, or whether all the necessary wall finishes have been arrived — not when all changes are tracked in one place.

Fohlio helps you deliver projects faster, with fewer errors. Collaborate better, specify more quickly, and create design standards. Schedule a demo with us or explore different features with one of our account managers.



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