Search results for "affordable housing"

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New Lease on Life

L.A. might repurpose its General Hospital as affordable housing
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion this week to study the feasibility of reusing the county’s abandoned General Hospital for affordable, low-income, and mixed-use housing. The motion was authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis as part an initiative that aims to establish a “Healthy Village” in and around the University of Southern California medical campus that surrounds the defunct hospital. The approved motion authorizes the County to lead a detailed feasibility study and to craft a strategic plan with relevant parties to bring the initiative to life. As the “birthplace of emergency medicine,” the Art Deco–style Los Angeles County General Hospital was considered a state-of-the-art institution at the time of its opening in 1933. The 800-bed teaching hospital played a vital role in the community and earned the affectionate nickname “Great Stone Mother,” an allusion to the building’s cascading concrete hospital wings. The New Deal–era structure was built amid the Great Depression and was designed by the Allied Architects’ Association of Los Angeles, a consortium of local architects that took on various municipal projects across the region. The hospital facility is also notable for its relationship to the Chicano Movement of the 1970s and to the community organizing that occurred in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy. The exterior of the complex is also notable for its appearance in the opening credits of the television show General Hospital. The facility was replaced after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake following the passage of updated structural codes that were passed in response to the disaster. It was replaced by an HOK-designed facility that opened in 2008. The General Hospital is joined by Charity Hospital in New Orleans as one of two major abandoned Art Deco–style hospitals in the United States. In a press release, Supervisor Solis said, “We must be innovative and audacious if we want to end the homelessness crisis and simultaneously increase affordable housing in the region.” Solis added, “Today’s action to transform the abandoned General Hospital into a marquee facility will not only breathe new life into this historic building, but it will also help our most vulnerable residents regain control of their lives. When I look at this iconic structure, I see much more than an architectural gem: I envision a thriving community facility proactively helping people suffering from homelessness and other disadvantages get back on their feet.” According to the approved motion, the completed report and feasibility study will be due back to the Board of Supervisors by fall 2019.
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Sunlit Sanctuary

Fort Lauderdale complex proves prefab affordable housing can bring the glamour
Downtown Fort Lauderdale, Florida, will be home to a new affordable housing unit as part of the collaborative work between Glavovic Studio and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an organization that delivers medical care and services dealing with HIV/AIDS to over one million people worldwide. Fort Lauderdale–based Glavovic Studio plans to transform one-and-a-half city blocks into a green, multi-functional neighborhood for locals to enjoy, all within walking distance of South Florida’s New River. The 3.4-acre design concept called “ON3RD” strives to tackle the nation’s affordable housing and homeless crises by providing fast access to cheap and environmentally friendly housing for low-income individuals. The “affordable residential development campus” will contain a 15-story residential tower, parking garage, and two preexisting service buildings owned by AHF. With the growing number of workers and residents in the area, as well as the steady increase of homelessness generally in the United States, there has been a rising demand for pedestrian and transit-friendly environments in downtown Fort Lauderdale, especially those that incorporate greenery, support infrastructure, and urban open space. Glavovic Studio sought to create a community that reflects the existing fabric of Fort Lauderdale, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades. The firm made sure to include multiple landscaped plazas, terraces, and micro-gardens in the site plan, contributing to the idea of a wholesome, walkable, urban space. While the housing units are designed to tie in seamlessly with the existing fabric of the city, its various zones and neighborhoods will provide visitors with a sense of being in a “city within a city.” The L-shaped residential building that serves as the focal point of the site will house 680 modular micro-apartments, including 260-square-foot-units and 400-square-foot-townhomes on its first four floors. These unit types were chosen primarily because they can be built efficiently using basic construction methods, and they include prefabricated interior bathrooms and kitchens, repeated window wall systems, and standard floor plates, all of which can be built off-site and installed into the building with ease. To diminish the building’s massive scale, its protruding balconies fluctuate at various angles to make it seem as though the structure is composed of a series of interconnected, smaller buildings. Glavovic Studio, which views sustainability as a core part of its philosophy, will layer the building with decorative masonry breeze blocks, which will not only give the structure a sense of texture and depth, but also regulate its exposure to sun and shadow in order to provide each unit with an abundance of shading and cooling. Because the breeze blocks will reduce the need for air conditioning systems, they will save energy and drastically lower the monthly electric bills for the residents. The jutting balconies provide shade and further lower the room temperatures of each unit, a necessary feature for South Florida's hot and muggy climate. “Working with AHF, we have looked far beyond architectural solutions to include political, social, and strategic approaches as well, including community partners and the public on affordable housing issues,” stated Margi Nothard, founder of Glavovic Studio, in a statement. “The ultimate goal is to create a model for a sustainable, economically viable and dignified solution to this entrenched problem.”
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Housing for Humanity

Community groups take the lead in the fight for affordable housing
A growing housing affordability crisis in cities across the country is spurring new community-based movements that work to protect the rights of tenants. A janitor named Socrates Guzman, with the help of the Boston-based grassroots organization City Life, successfully fought a major rent increase. He is now a local community organizer, committed to improving rent control laws in favor of existing leaseholders. Araceli Barrer, a housekeeper, worked with Colorado Homes for All to fight her own eviction and won. She is now trying to push a bill in the state legislature to allow tenants to withhold rent under certain conditions. In Chicago, the Autonomous Tenants Union defends and enforces the right to dignified housing through a group of core volunteers. They seek to "end all evictions" and fight for "community control of housing through the building of popular power.” In Los Angeles, tenant advocates forced a housing initiative to be placed on the November ballot that would allow for the expansion of current rent control laws. Others are not so patient. In one Central Los Angeles neighborhood, two hundred families in three separate buildings banded together and refused to pay rent until their demands are met. They decried stiff rent increases while they continued to live in the poorly maintained buildings. The Los Angeles Tenants Union, composed of volunteer organizers and a legal entity known as the Eviction Defense Network, assists the residents in their fight to win concessions from the landlord. In Colorado, the state legislature has even considered formalizing the rent strike process. Rent strikes, however, have had mixed results. In 2016, tenants in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles lost a court battle after a lengthy strike that resulted in mass evictions and redevelopment of the area. It’s also not easy to find new housing with an eviction on your record and petty landlords often make life painful by turning off the hot water and electricity. Developers argue that limiting the ability of landlords to charge market rents only leads to less housing being built and furthering the housing crisis. Some cities like San Fransisco, Los Angeles, and New York are providing free legal representation for tenants facing eviction. Cities have found that it is cheaper to offer free legal fees to tenants than to provide additional shelters for the newly homeless.
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More for Less

BIG completes affordable housing complex in Copenhagen
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has recently completed work an affordable housing project in the firm's hometown of Copenhagen, Denmark. The project is known by the name of its neighborhood, Dortheavej, a largely industrial area in the northwestern part of the city with buildings from the early 20th century. The 66-unit complex was designed for the nonprofit Lejerbo, a local organization that is trying to get high-profile architects to design affordable housing. The design used modular construction to create a repetitive facade where every-other unit punches out to create small balconies for the unit above. The checkerboard facade is clad in glass and loose wood slats to create an organic, almost rustic, look and feel. The stacked housing modules create a gently-bending wall that frames a plaza to one side of the building. Punches through the building on the ground level allow passage through the relatively narrow profile. The units range in size from 645 to 1237 square feet. "The prefabricated elements are stacked in a way that allows every second module an extra meter of room height, making the kitchen-living areas unusually spacious," Bjarke Ingels said in a statement. The 73,000-square-foot building had a price tag of approximately $9.8 million.
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Sleeper Car

Self-driving homes could be the future of affordable housing
The convergence of new technologies including artificial intelligence, the internet of things, electric cars, and drone delivery systems suggests an unlikely solution to the growing housing crisis. In the next few years, we may use an app on our smartphones to notify our houses to pick us up or drop us off. Honda recently announced the IeMobi Concept. It is an autonomous mobile living room that attaches and detaches from your home. When parked, the vehicle becomes a 50-square-foot living or workspace. Mercedes-Benz Vans rolled out an all-electric digitally-connected van with fully integrated cargo space and drone delivery capability, and Volvo just unveiled its 360c concept vehicle that serves as either a living room or mobile office. In other cases, some folks are simply retrofitting existing vehicles. One couple in Oxford England successfully converted a Mercedes Sprinter van into a micro-home that includes 153 square feet of living space, a complete kitchen, a sink, a fridge, a four-person dining area, and hidden storage spaces. For those who are either unwilling or unable to own a home, self-driving van houses could become a convenient and affordable solution.  Soon, our mobile driverless vehicles may allow us to work from our cars and have our laundry and a hot meal delivered at the same time. In Los Angeles alone, it is estimated that 15,000 people are already living in their cars and in most countries it is perfectly legal to live in your vehicle. The consequences of autonomous home living are far-reaching. It could radically reduce carbon footprints and living expenses by combining all transportation and housing needs in one space.  The new need for overnight parking creates new economic and social opportunities. New types of pop-up communities will emerge with charging stations, retail stores, laundry facilities, restaurants, and social spaces. The freedom of a van-home lifestyle suggests new modes of living which include more leisure time and less time tethered to a job. The impact on cities, economies, infrastructures, inter-city travel, and the way we live and organize ourselves are immeasurable and scarcely completely imagined. As Volvo says “Why fly when you can be driven?” Soon you may be able to avoid airport lines and delays. You will be able to arrive at your destination rested and refreshed after being driven overnight in your personal portable bedroom.
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More Room in the Beehive

Salt Lake City mayor boosts affordable housing with two new initiatives
The mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, recently announced two new initiatives to bolster affordable housing in the city, according to an article in The Salt Lake Tribune. Mayor Jackie Biskupski said that the city will be introducing fee waivers for projects including at least 20 percent affordable housing and that the city is developing new rules that would require affordable housing be replaced when it is redeveloped or demolished. According to a 2018 study cited by the Tribune, housing costs in Utah are rising much faster than wages, and one-eighth of the state's households are spending 50 percent or more of their income on housing. Biskupski, who was elected in 2015, has focused on housing access and renewable energy throughout her tenure. In 2016 she called homelessness a "humanitarian crisis" while announcing four new shelters in the city,  and along with other mayors across the country she has committed to pursuing the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement from which the national government withdrew last year. While cities like New York and San Francisco very visibly struggle with affordable housing and dramatic income inequality, smaller cities and towns across the country are facing their own forms of housing crises, albeit on smaller scales. A 2017 study by the Urban Institute found that every county in the country lacked enough housing for extremely-low income households.
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Rounding Home

A choice for Seattle: Affordable housing or stadium upgrades?
Officials in King County, Washington, are fighting over whether to funnel $180 million in future tax revenue toward the development of affordable housing or for upgrades to the Seattle Mariners baseball stadium.  The County, which owns Safeco Field where the Mariners play, has been attempting to hammer out a new 25-year lease agreement with the team for the facility for several months and was near a deal as recently as May of this year. That was when King County executive Dow Constantine proposed to earmark roughly $180 million in funds to be generated by a county-wide hotel/motel tax toward the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District, the county-administered entity that presides over the stadium, for facilities upgrades. Specifically, The Stranger reports, the funds would be used to pay for maintenance and capital improvements to the building, including, potentially, new concession areas, a new hall of fame space, luxury box upgrades, and additional parking. The $180 million in public funds would augment $205 million in private funding provided by the team toward renovations for the 19-year-old stadium.  The hotel/motel tax was originally enacted to help pay off debt resulting from public financing for the construction of the nearby CenturyLink Field football stadium in the late 1990s. The football stadium was designed by Ellerbe Becket, LMN Architects, and Streeter & Associates and currently hosts the Seattle Seahawks NFL team and Seattle Sounders MLS team. Famously, the new stadium replaced the mid-century modern-era Seattle Kingdome, which was designed by architects Naramore, Skilling, & Praeger in 1972 and was spectacularly imploded in 2000. The Seattle Times reports that the debt for CenturyLink Field will be paid off in 2020 and that following that, state law requires 75% of the funds generated by the motel-hotel tax be divided evenly between affordable housing and arts-focused initiatives. The remainder is up for targeted but ultimately discretionary use. Constantine argues that the funds should be earmarked for tourism-supporting initiatives—including stadium renovations, as proposed—but other King County Council members would rather see the funds diverted toward helping to alleviate the County’s raging housing and homelessness crisis. The disagreement has escalated in recent weeks as the Mariners have hinted that the viability of their long-term lease is contingent on the $180 million hand out, though the team has not explicitly threatened to move from Seattle if a deal can’t be worked out. In particular, Councilman Dave Upthegrove opposes Constantine’s funding request and has argued publicly for funneling the $180 million toward housing based partly on the idea that the team—worth $1.45 billion, according to Forbes—can afford the repairs itself.  Upthegrove told The Seattle Times, “There is no reason they would walk away from a business enterprise that is generating so much wealth for them. The threat is nonsense.” Upthegrove continued: “We have a simple choice—We can invest this money in public needs, or we can use it to allow these business owners to make even more money.”  After a council meeting last week, support for the housing plan seemed shaky among councilmembers, but as the week wore on, some officials began to rethink their options. A recent report by The Seattle Times added fuel to the fire by questioning whether public money should go toward pricey luxury box upgrades and other high-end line items. There are currently over 12,000 Seattleites experiencing homelessness according to the most recent count, and while regional efforts to boost affordable housing production have ramped up over the last two years, the efforts have done little yet to change housing conditions for a significant portion of that population. There is an urgent need for affordable housing in the region and local leaders are trying a variety of outside-the-box approaches as they attempt to boost affordability. The latest tussle over affordable housing funding comes weeks after Seattle’s corporate elite, including Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft, successfully pushed back against a proposed “head tax” that would have levied a modest fee on major employers in the city to fund housing efforts. As far as the Mariners plan is concerned, the King County Council met last week with no resolution on the issue. Additional meetings are scheduled for late August and throughout the Fall.
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Brotherly Love?

Philadelphia passes affordable housing tax on new construction, but it may not last
Philadelphia’s City Council narrowly approved a tax on new construction projects last Thursday, in a 9-to-8 vote that may not stand up to mayoral scrutiny. The measure would bring in about $22 million a year for affordable housing, but trade unions and developers are arguing that the tax would slow the city's economic growth. The one percent tax on new construction and significant redevelopments is part of a sweeping package aimed at boosting the city’s affordable housing tools. In a move to capitalize on Philadelphia's meteoric building boom, the fee would apply to projects of any scope and be paid when filing a building permit. Funds from the new construction tax would go into a Housing Trust Fund, which non- and for-profit developers could tap for construction or closing costs. A zoning change was also included in the measure, which would allow developers to increase the height and density of their projects in exchange for making 10 percent of their rental and condo units affordable. Opting into the zoning bonus would not preclude developers from also paying the new tax. “Affordable” units, in this measure’s language, would be open to households who have lived in Philadelphia for at least three years, and who make less than a combined $105,000 a year; 120 percent of the city’s median income. Not everyone is on board, and building trade unions, developers, businesses, and some affordable housing advocates around Philadelphia have come out against the tax on new construction. In a letter to the City Council’s finance committee ahead of a vote earlier in the month, trade unions came out swinging against the tax, arguing that it would dissuade Amazon from picking the city for its second headquarters. On the other end, affordable and low-income housing advocates feel the $105,000 income cap is too generous, and that the city should do more to tighten the requirements. Of course, the tax’s passage is far from assured. Sources within the City Council have reportedly indicated that Mayor Jim Kenney is likely to veto the bill over the rising pushback in a move similar to Seattle’s recent head tax controversy. The veto would be the first of Kenney’s career, and would require 12 City Council votes to override–far from a sure thing, considering the slim margin that the bill originally passed with.
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Neverending Story

Amazon, Starbucks, and other Seattle corporations claw back affordable housing tax
After the passage of a tax on mega-companies that seemed like a victory for Seattle’s affordable housing advocates less than a month ago, Amazon, Starbucks, and other Seattle-based businesses have banded together to lobby for its repeal. The strategy seems to have worked, and Seattle’s City Council met today to consider rolling back the tax ahead of a November referendum forced by the business community. Business groups raised over $200,000 after the passage of the so-called “head tax,” which would have billed companies grossing $20 million a year or more $275 per employee (bargained down from $500) for five years, to gather the signatures required for a repeal referendum. Whether the referendum would have been held or not, the pressure generated has caused Mayor Jenny Durkan and the City Council to act. In a statement released yesterday, The Mayor’s office pledged to consider repealing the tax, which originally passed with unanimous City Council support. “It is clear that the ordinance will lead to a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis. These challenges can only be addressed together as a city, and as importantly, as a state and a region. “We heard you. This week, the City Council is moving forward with the consideration of legislation to repeal the current tax on large businesses to address the homelessness crisis.” Amazon had originally threatened to halt all expansion in Seattle when the first iteration of the head tax was floated by officials, but backed down and resumed construction on their downtown projects when the measure passed. The tax would have raised $47 million for the construction of 591 units of affordable housing throughout Seattle and services for the homeless. In a late afternoon voting session, it now appears that the head tax has been repealed by a 7 to 2 margin.
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House in a Box

New York City issues first call for affordable housing requiring modular construction
New York City’s affordable buildings are now going up in blocks as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan released late last year. The more ambitious sequel to 2014’s original Housing New York, the new plan calls for a shift towards modular construction on affordable housing projects as a time- and cost-saving measure. Now, the first request for proposals (RFP) has been issued for a city-owned modular development. As reported by The Real Deal, NYC's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) first issued the RFP for a modular, 100 percent affordable building in East New York on May 24. The L-shaped plot is owned by the city and covers approximately 49,397 square feet at 581 Grant Street, between Pitkin and Glenmore Avenues along Elder Lane, adjacent to the Grant Avenue A station. For the city’s first mandated modular project, HPD is looking to develop a mixed-use building with 100 percent of the units allocated for affordable housing across all income levels. Ten percent of the units will be set aside for the formerly homeless. Interested parties have until September 10, 2018, to submit their proposals. Modular construction has taken off in a big way as of late and is one of the many tools that the de Blasio administration wants to use to hit 300,000 units of new or preserved units of housing by 2026 (up from 200,000 units in the 2014 plan). Boston is gearing up to open a new modular unit factory, and modular design/build start-up Katerra is continuing its impressive expansion across the West Coast. AN will follow this article up after a team for 581 Grant Street has been selected.
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Concrete Yeezys

Renderings unveiled for Yeezy Home’s first affordable housing prototype
Less than a month after launching the Yeezy Home architecture studio, Kanye West and collaborators Jalil Peraza, Petra Kustrin, Nejc Skufca and Vadik Marmelado have unveiled initial renderings for a prefabricated affordable housing prototype. Renderings for the speculative design project were unveiled via Peraza’s Instagram account over the weekend. The images depict photorealistic renderings of concrete paneled apartment interiors and are labeled as a “low-income housing scheme” by Peraza. The slick interior images betray the minimal-meets-sumptuous vernacular West favors, showcasing views of a sleek, sun-lit kitchen and an atmospheric courtyard. A third view acquired by Highsnobiety depicts a white-walled room that connects directly to the aforementioned, window-paneled courtyard.  The project images come as West attempts to expand into the world of architecture and urban design following a visit to the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). West recently unveiled views of the Yeezy Offices in Calabasas, California undertaken with the designer Willo Perron. In the past, West has worked with OMA, Family, John Pawson, and Alex Vervoodt on personal design collaborations, as well. Peraza is a long-time collaborator with West and has worked on the rapper’s DONDA clothing line in the past.  A project timeline or site for the low-cost housing scheme has not been announced, but considering Peraza’s ongoing work with Face Modules, a prefab commercial pod system, it could be that the scheme is designed for mass application. West’s interest in low-cost housing comes along amid languishing urgency surrounding a nation-wide housing crisis. Experts widely agree that a shortage of affordable housing units nationwide is fueling income inequality, economic stagnation, and a growing homelessness epidemic, though little has been done about it. The designers’ efforts mirror those of another celebrity-turned-developer—Elon Musk—who has proposed making bricks from the mud excavated from his tunnel boring activities in Los Angeles, in order to build affordable housing.
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Can't Stop Won't Stop

Over Amazon’s threats, Seattle passes tax on big business to fund affordable housing
The Seattle City Council has unanimously passed a scaled-down version of the tax on mega-companies that caused Amazon to suspend its construction in the city earlier this month. It now seems like Amazon was bluffing when it threatened to pull out if the measure went through, as pre-construction work on the 17-story Block 18 tower is reportedly back on. Seattle is weathering an affordability crisis as rents and homelessness rates continue to rise, and a tax on companies grossing $20 million a year or more was proposed as a way of funding new affordable housing. The proposed tax would have originally hit those larger companies (about three percent of businesses in Seattle) with an annual, $500-a-head charge. After deliberations between the Council, Mayor’s office, and the business community, a leaner, $275-per-employee bill that sunsets in five years was eventually passed. The original measure was expected to bring in around $75 to $86 million a year for the city, which would have built approximately 1,700 affordable units over the next five years; as passed, Seattle will reap $45 to $49 million a year, and only build out 591 units over that same period. Still, even these changes haven’t appeared to sit well with Amazon. Although construction will move forward on Block 18, an office tower in downtown Seattle that could hold 7,000 Amazon employees, Amazon issued a sternly-worded statement after the vote threatening to reduce its footprint in the city. With 45,000 employees currently in Seattle, the tech giant would have ended up paying around $12 million a year. “We are disappointed by today’s City Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs,” Drew Herdener, an Amazon vice-president, told The Guardian. “We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here.” Amazon’s statement isn’t just bluster. While the Graphite Design Group–designed Block 18 will rise after all, the company is still debating about whether it will take the 722,000-square-feet of office space it was going to lease in the forthcoming Rainer Square building. As the HQ2 search continues, it remains to be seen whether Seattle’s pushback against Amazon will have an effect on what prospective cities are willing to concede; 40 officials from cities all over the country, including some of those still in the HQ2 running, have signed an open letter throwing their weight behind Seattle in this tax fight.