7 Affordable Housing Projects We Can Learn From

In recent articles, we’ve been looking at affordable housing architecture and low-income housing design ideas that can transform residential projects.

We’ve discussed how incorporating modern materials and building methods can help to keep the cost of construction down. 

We’ve explored how effective design can help to reduce the cost of occupancy and improve sustainability. 

We’ve also highlighted the impact that policymakers have on our ability to provide low-cost, sustainable, and affordable housing projects. 

It’s all good in theory – but can it work in practice?

The answer is yes, as these seven examples of the best residential projects from across the United States demonstrate.

  1. Merritt Crossing Senior Apartments, Oakland CA

The apartments at Merritt Crossing were integrated into space between a freeway and inner-city neighborhood and built for seniors with incomes of between 30% and 50% of the area’s median income.

They incorporate a community room, communal laundry, garden courtyard, and lobby, helping to induce a community feeling and reduce the loneliness of residents, many of whom were previously homeless.

The project used materials and methods designed to enhance durability and reduce build and occupation costs – including energy efficiency designed to reduce energy use by almost 50%.

  1. Four Ten Lofts, Baltimore

In Baltimore’s Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District, Four Ten Lofts provides a total of 64 apartments in eight buildings. These apartments range from one to three bedrooms. The larger block includes an art gallery, workroom, spray booth, and sound rooms for musicians.

  1. Filmore Park, San Francisco

Modern, fresh, and sustainable, the 32 family-size units at Filmore Park are functional, stylish, and affordable. This project delivered flats and townhouses around a central communal courtyard, specifically designed for working families with 70% plus of the area’s median income.

Mostly built from durable, recycled, and low-cost materials, the design helps to reduce noise from the surrounding area while fostering a sense of community. The project includes landscaping and ecological vegetation.

  1. Monsignor Anthony J. Baretta Apartments, Brooklyn NY

Based on a smart housing infill prototype, the Monsignor Anthony J. Barretta Apartments comprises a total of 64 units in eight buildings, with eight units set aside for section 8 tenants. When completed in 2013, the cost of $185 per square foot was far below the average for affordable housing at the time.

The land was acquired from the Brooklyn Diocese. A design element is a central, glass-enclosed stair at the front of each building, providing a visual connection to the street and helping ventilation as well as saving energy in the winter.

  1. Via Verde, Bronx New York City

The stepped 222-unit Via Verde complex was built on brownfield land in the Bronx. It won the New Housing New York Legacy Competition. It includes cascading greenspaces on its roofs.

The apartments include flexible layouts to adapt to the residents’ needs, and the complex includes a central courtyard with a playground and amphitheater. 

Residents can grow their own fruit and vegetables on the roof gardens, which also serve to conserve energy. 

It was built within a strict budget and achieved a LEED NC Gold Certification.

  1. Parkview Terrace San Francisco

The modern, glass and concrete building provides homes for elderly, low-income residents on a former freeway site in San Francisco. The undulating shape of Parkview Terrace increases floor space at no extra cost. The complex includes a community room, health club, therapy center, social services center, and beauty salon.

Though a relatively small space to build on, the design enabled 101 units to be included, as well as parking and a double-height lobby.

  1. Frost Terrace, Cambridge MA

Frost Terrace incorporates refurbished existing space with new-build apartments, to create an eclectic and eye-catching complex of transit-oriented affordable housing for families. The project included using existing buildings and materials to keep construction costs low. It also included efficient heat-pump systems, insulated envelopes, and energy recovery ventilation to create sustainable, cheap-to-occupy homes for families living on 30% to 60% of area median income.

High-quality, affordable housing is achievable

These seven examples show that it is possible to build high-quality, affordable housing in our cities. We simply need to pull together, think differently, and design with greater purpose. Of course, there are many, many other examples across the United States – we don’t have the space to list them all, never mind describe them.

When considering how we can build better neighborhoods that help to develop communities and provide the homes that people need at a cost they can afford, isn’t it wise to look at how others are tackling the issue – and then cherry-pick the best ideas and innovations to overcome our planning and design challenges?

At ACB Consulting, we are committed to helping improve the communities in which we live, work, and play – including how they are conceived, designed and created. To learn more, contact ACB Consulting.

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