The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced a graduate student team with members from Pratt Institute and New York University as the winners of HUD’s eighth annual Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition. For the 2021 competition, HUD partnered with Fresno Housing in Fresno County, California.
The combined Pratt Institute and New York University team was one of four finalist teams challenged with the redevelopment of housing units and seizing the opportunity to create one cohesive community from five contiguous properties. The five properties, although adjacent to one another, are currently separated by fences.
These barriers are not only physically unappealing; they contribute to the larger disconnectedness of the entire community. The student teams were challenged to build a workforce housing plan that included the redesign of over 210 housing units for farm laborers, migrant workers, senior citizens, and low-income families in Firebaugh, California.
HUD also announced a team of students from the University of Michigan and Harvard University as runner-up for their understanding of a detailed financing scheme, as well as their attention to phasing for onsite relocation.
“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,” said Jenn Jones, Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary. “On behalf of Secretary Fudge and the Department, I want to congratulate all the students who participated in HUD’s Innovation in Affordable Housing Competition, and I want to ask the students to keep up your enthusiasm for the work. 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.”
Mr. Michael Duarte, Chief Real Estate Officer at Fresno Housing, also commended the students’ hard work and contribution to finding innovative solutions to affordable housing challenges in the rural community of Firebaugh. “Our team was impressed with each of the final four presentations and offers our congratulations to the Pratt Institute/New York University team who innovatively incorporated feedback from residents and local experts into their final project,” said Duarte. “We look forward to reviewing the proposal in greater detail and working with the Firebaugh community to determine if this inclusive vision can be implemented.”
HUD's Innovation in Affordable Housing competition strives to spur research, collaboration, and creativity in affordable housing and community development. This year's challenge required multidisciplinary teams composed of graduate students in architecture, planning and policy, finance, and other areas to address social, economic, environmental, design, financial, and construction issues in addition to the affordable housing design challenge.
Student teams presented their final projects to a jury of practitioners via a live virtual platform. The Pratt Institute/New York University team will receive a $20,000 award, and the runner-up team from the University of Michigan/Harvard University will receive a $10,000 award. The two remaining finalist teams, Columbia University and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, will each receive $5,000.
The competition jurors praised the winning team for their comprehensive financial package as well as their attention to innovation and environmental sustainability. The team was also praised for their plan to reuse an existing property, La Joya Commons, in the Firebaugh development.
Rob Hazelton, the Head Juror and CEO of Dominion Due Diligence Group, said about the winning team from Pratt Institute and New York University: “This is the only team that reused La Joya Commons, which the housing authority has already invested about $1.4 million into redevelopment efforts, plans, designs and approvals. I appreciate that they actually reused the plan and thought about reuse and rebuild very purposefully. Their financial plan was also very purposeful. I believe this was the most innovative design we were presented with; it was a breathable full-blown community.”
By initiating and funding this competition, HUD hopes to inspire and support aspiring members of fields such as architecture, planning, policy, and finance in advancing affordable and sustainable housing for low- and moderate-income Americans.