Search results for "affordable housing"

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Weekly Alloyances

AN visits Alloy, the architect-developer reshaping Brooklyn
One of the most talked-about towers in Brooklyn is being designed—and built—at the hands of Alloy Development, the 13-year-old company responsible for residential structures like 185 Plymouth Street and One John Street in DUMBO. Led by CEO and founder Jared Della Valle and president AJ Pires, the firm has its sights set next on two projects along Flatbush Avenue in Boreum Hill—one of them which would become among the tallest skyscrapers in Brooklyn. These major developments are advancing their goal of shaping the real estate conversation in New York towards a more design- and community-centric outlook. They’re literally restructuring the skyline of the city’s most populous borough one project at a time, for better or for worse.  But getting the chance to take on an 860-foot-tall building like the one Alloy is putting up at 80 Flatbush didn’t just happen overnight. When Della Valle and Pires first started Alloy in 2006, there were hardly any companies sporting the title of architect-developer. Architects stayed in one lane and developers stayed in another, but that didn’t stop Alloy from stepping into unknown territory.  When the firm completed its distinctive 459 West 18th Street on the High Line, an 11-story residential structure with contrasting black-and-white, angular facade, both the design and real estate communities started to take notice. It wasn’t easy for Alloy to secure the millions of dollars needed for that in-demand site, but its success gave the company—then under the name Della Valle + Bernheimer—the confidence to do even bigger projects. “We chose to pursue development as a way to have more agency over the process of design and to take control of the outcome,” said Della Valle. “When you can define program and priorities because you are taking on the risk and assembling all the capital, you get more design agency from every single perspective.”  In mid-2016 alongside co-developer Monadnock, Alloy completed One John Street, a glimmering, 12-story, 42-unit sustainable structure on the DUMBO waterfront just north of the Manhattan Bridge. The team considers it a major turning point for the company because of its integration into the local community. Though it’s a luxury residential property, it housed an outpost of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for the last three years, and soon a Brooklyn Public Library annex will open in its stead.  From a design standpoint, One John Street was also a major step forward for Alloy. The firm teamed up with Brooklyn-based SITU Studio to create the one-of-a-kind sculptural panels made of concrete textured after fragments of fiberglass, pellets of beeswax, and salt granules that wrap the building’s lower core. In addition, because of the building’s noisy location next to an elevated train line, Alloy scaled up the windows and floors, decreasing the sun exposure at the same time.  Challenging themselves with innovation at One John Street also gave Della Valle and Pires the authority to cement their names alongside New York’s top developers, and its completion gave them a seat at the table.  “I find it hysterical that now we are on the same panels as the very big guns of real estate in this city like Related and Extell who have existed for a long, long time,” said Della Valle. “On the architecture side, we’ve received a lot of admiration because we’ve made design a core value of our developments. We’re not interested in repeatability.” Della Valle said that he’s met with plenty of famous architects who grill him on how Alloy makes it work. As a development company full of architects, he says the quality of the architecture and its impact on the community is most important. “We have to have economic output to achieve our work, but it’s not our reason for being.” Alloy’s office is located at 20 Jay Street, a hotspot for many Brooklyn-based architecture firms because of the old building’s large floorplate. A small firm with just under 20 employees, the team has been based in the same space since 2001. On any given day, they’re only working on one or two projects at a time and don't have to answer to any clients—ever. Things will continue to stay this way, according to Pires.  “Jared and I both live 100 feet from the office,” he said. “We’ve gotten to know every single landowner in DUMBO and there’s an intimacy of knowledge here that, when you connect it back to the risk equation, is very valuable. We’ve often had a leg up on other developers in this neighborhood because we’ve been here for so long.”  Alloy’s investment in DUMBO has long been clear and will continue with their upcoming three townhouses and 46 apartments at 168 Plymouth Street. Their proposal to take two, neighboring, century-old warehouses and turn them into condominiums was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. It will be one of the last loft conversations in the area once finished next year. However, the East-River adjacent community isn’t the only part of Brooklyn that Pires and Della Valle aim to influence.  80 and 100 Flatbush will be the duo’s first attempt at a true high-rise development. The mixed-use skyscraper at 80 Flatbush will feature 200 units of affordable housing while the proposed 482-foot-tall tower at 100 Flatbush will include a 700-seat elementary and high school (designed by ARO) for Khalil Gibran International Academy, the first English-Arabic public school in the United States. Two historic buildings will also be preserved on the site. Demolition began in October.  To go after such a massive property—the block is spread across 61,000-square feet—Alloy had to work with the city’s Education Construction Fund in planning all that the future site would entail. It’s an overwhelmingly complex project, but Della Valle and Pires see it as another decisive moment in Alloy’s own development. They’ve been able to reach this point, Pires said, because of that innate attraction to risk and their constant reliability.  “The exposure we’ve received on our past work gives us a lot of credibility,” he said. "We truly believe you have to be optimistic to be in development. The associated risk actually boosts our creativity and forces us to be more clever." 
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LOHA in SoLA

Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects designs porous supportive housing in South Los Angeles
Though over 1,700 parcels owned by the city of Los Angeles were designated for affordable housing development in 2018, the vast majority of them remain empty to this day and without any plans in the foreseeable future. This may be due to the fact that many of these sites are “leftover spaces”—irregular geometries tucked in the margins of already-developed neighborhoods. Local firm Lorcan O’Herlihy (LOHA) is one of the first, however, to boldly make use of one of these compromising sites with their newest project, Isla De Los Angeles Supportive Housing and Annenberg Paseo, a 54-unit housing project on a triangular lot near a freeway interchange in South Los Angeles. Renderings of the project recall both the staggered apartments of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 and the spatial porosity of Steven Holl’s Simmons Hall dormitory at MIT. Rather than appear as a single, monolithic building on its narrow parcel, the project is broken down into housing units placed within modular boxes then arranged into informal towers. The units would be assembled by welding together three 20-foot-by-8-foot shipping containers, each of which would provide roughly 480 square feet of living space in an open plan featuring a kitchen, bathroom, and a living room that doubles as a bedroom. The units can be assembled offsite by half of the construction team while the other half prepares the grounds on-site, cutting the construction time from four years to two. They will be arranged along the perimeter of the site to make room for several green spaces in its center, which LOHA anticipates will serve as a “green lung,” helping to filter air pollution from the nearby freeway. “Our aim,” stated LOHA in a press release, “was to create something that was compartmental but solid, strong enough to withstand the demands of the project’s location but porous enough to engage the residents on a human scale with outdoor activities and places to work and socialize.” Following MLK1101 in 2017, Isla De Los Angeles Supportive Housing and Annenberg Paseo is the second project LOHA has designed in collaboration with nonprofit developer Clifford Beers Housing in South Los Angeles.
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Pitted Against the Law

Judge rules Brad Pitt could be sued over poorly-built New Orleans homes
A federal judge has ruled that actor Brad Pitt will remain a defendant in a case against his housing nonprofit, the Make It Right Foundation. Last November, the Ad Astra-star and other directors of the organization, which was founded in 2007 to build affordable homes after Hurricane Katrina, asked the court to remove their names from a class-action lawsuit filed by two homeowners who claim shoddy construction. One hundred and nine pieces of experimental and sustainable architecture from Make It Right popped up in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward through 2015, an area devastated by the 2005 hurricane and its subsequent flooding. Renowned design firms came to Make It Right to offer their services including Adjaye Associates, Gehry Partners, and KieranTimberlake, establishing a new eco-friendly, supposedly disaster-proof neighborhood. But things quickly went awry as reports of homeowner complaints surfaced regarding the structural integrity of the architecture and more (aka mold). By September of last year, Make It Right had sued its own principal architect on allegations of defective design work.  Over the last year, Pitt’s lawyers have attempted to get the actor’s name taken off the latter lawsuit by citing he had no personal responsibility for the construction—last year, the actor claimed that because he wasn't an architect or builder, he wasn't culpable for the quality of the housing. However, as the founder and main fundraiser of the housing project, Pitt was not able to separate himself from the legal battle and could face court in the coming months. 
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Dorm Life

Former Art Institute of Colorado building to be transformed into micro-unit housing
Following the closure of the Art Institute of Colorado building in late 2018 in Denver (alongside a host of other institutions now under the Dream Center Education Holdings umbrella), it was announced on September 30 that Nichols Partnership paid $15.25 million for the site with plans of transforming the property into as many as 155 micro-units. When asked about the reasoning behind the ten-story structure's conversion, Randy Nichols, one of the partners of Nichols Partnership, said that “this building just happens to work out perfectly in the depth of the floorplate, so that we can get small units in there and they’re not super long and thin.” The company believes that the apartments, all of which would range between 300 and 450 square feet, would become desirable given the building’s proximity to Denver’s city center and the Libeskind-designed Denver Art Museum. Nichols commented that developing micro-units “is a way to make an affordable place to stay for people who are priced out of this very expensive apartment market.” Whereas a typical studio apartment in the area might go for $1,500-to-$1,700 a month, Nichols Properties hopes to rent their micro-units for closer to $1,100-to-$1,200 a month. The Art Institute is the third building in the area repurposed for micro-units by Nichols Partnership, the other two being a former hotel near the Mile High Stadium now known as “Turntable Studios” and a former medical office building near City Park now named “Cruise.” “Doing conversions of beat-up, old unoccupied building is kind of becoming a specialty, I guess,” Nichols reflected. “It’s a really good way to mitigate the ridiculous cost of new construction.” The company hasn’t yet settled on a name or theme for the new development, but Nichols suggested that they may incorporate student artwork that was left on desks before the building was vacated. With a projected total price tag of $35 million, the renovation is anticipated to begin next year.
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Unpack and Unroll

Can flatpack refugee housing be safer, faster, and more durable?
While refugee camps are generally designed to be temporary, they often end up staying up for many years and become full, functioning cities in their own right, housing generations of people—Dheisheh camp, in Palestine, for example has been continuously occupied since 1949. However, because the materials they are built with—often just tents or tarps over metal frames—are generally intended for quick deployment and a limited lifespan, it is becoming just one of many problematic facets of housing displaced peoples. Cutwork, an architecture and design studio based in Paris and Amsterdam, has developed a concept for quick-to-build, affordable, and durable refugee shelters that can be set up by just two people. Working with the building materials company Cortex Composites, they’ve created plans for homes that can be assembled by two people in just 24 hours. Cortex, which is classified as a Geosynthetic Cementitious Composite Mat, is a concrete-impregnated textile that can be shipped flat and simply rolled out and hardened with the addition of water, no additional equipment or specialized construction experience necessary. The half-inch-thick shell then hardens within a day and, the company claims, can last for as long as 30 years with compressive strength twice that of average concrete all while being as much as 90 percent less carbon-intensive. Cutwork’s design for the Cortex Shelter would roll these concrete textiles over bendable metal-tube frames. Washable insulation panels would be added to the shelter’s interior and the design has high windows that allow both natural light and privacy. Cutwork also imagines solar panels being placed on the roof to generate electricity, and, in theory, should there be the infrastructure to support them, there would be ample space for kitchens and bathrooms. While the Cortex Shelter is designed to be a repeatable home, the firm also imagines that in supporting the urbanization of refugee communities, schools, shops, other structures could be built with the same technology. Cutwork suggests that Cortex could be used to build permanent schools, shops, and even a sports stadium. While they admit urbanizing refugee settlements is not the ideal solution to this global crisis, the company believes that it can be one tool among many in making safer, more sustainable, and pleasant lives for the tens of millions of global refugees.
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PassivHaus Perfection

Super energy-efficient social housing claims the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize
The 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize has gone to a collection of 100 houses in Norwich, U.K. The low-energy homes on Goldsmith Street were designed by London-based studio Mikhail Riches and British architect Cathy Hawley for Norwich Council. It seems housing crises are everywhere at the moment and Britain is no exception, and the problems are compounded when you add in a "climate emergency," which the U.K.'s leading practices have formally acknowledged. The 100 homes commissioned by the Norwich Council were designed to PassivHaus standards—the gold standard when it comes to energy efficiency—in an attempt combat both problems. That means a 70 percent reduction in energy bills for residents. Better still, these are genuine council homes and not "affordable housing," able to be rented from the council directly, thus boasting fixed rents and providing tenants with extra security. Beyond this, the homes have been beautifully designed, too. Goldsmith Street takes cues from the nearby Victorian streets of the Golden Triangle district. The architects, though, do not succumb to producing another Poundbury, despite maintaining the same Victorian street widths and heavy use of brick, which has been wonderfully detailed to create a series of balconies. Garbage stores have been neatly tucked away behind bronze screens, and homes, despite being priced at social rent, aren't tight on space and provide lobby room for prams and bikes. Rooftops angle to ensure sunlight is able to enter houses in the row behind each other, and every home has its own front door and separate letterbox. Two-story houses are aligned in rows, with three-story flats situated either side. In addition to this, central terraces share a landscaped, communal walkway, meanwhile, parking facilities have been pushed to the site's periphery. Together, the homes form seven terraced blocks and compose a calm, pedestrian-friendly, low-rise estate. Mikhail Riches and Hawley were awarded the project after winning a competition back in 2008. The original plan was to sell the site to a local housing provider; however the financial crisis stalled the project and forced municipal authorities to press ahead on the development themselves. Unlike last year, when Foster + Partner's hulking Bloomberg HQ won, this year's winner is likely to be welcome, perhaps unexpected news to those in the profession. Goldsmith Street is a far cry from a glitzy office for a multinational corporation in central London, and its claim for being the best new work of architecture in Britain will hopefully spur on other councils to emulate Norwich's accomplishments. In winning the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize, Goldsmith Street fended off competition from five other projects: Cork House: in Berkshire by Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton; London Bridge Station by Grimshaw; Nevill Holt Opera in Leicestershire by Witherford Watson Mann Architects; The Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience in Moray, Scotland, by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, and The Weston in Yorkshire Sculpture Park by Feilden Fowles Architects. In a press release, The 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize judges, chaired by Julia Barfield, said: “Goldsmith Street is a modest masterpiece. It is high-quality architecture in its purest most environmentally and socially-conscious form. Behind restrained creamy facades are impeccably-detailed, highly sustainable homes – an incredible achievement for a development of this scale. This is proper social housing, over ten years in the making, delivered by an ambitious and thoughtful council. These desirable, spacious, low-energy properties should be the norm for all council housing." David Mikhail of Mikhail Riches added: “Goldsmith Street’s success is a testimony to the vision and leadership of Norwich City Council. We thank them for their commitment and support. They believe that council housing tenants deserve great design. It is not often we are appointed to work on a project so closely aligned with what we believe matters; buildings people love which are low impact. We hope other Local Authorities will be inspired to deliver beautiful homes for people who need them the most, and at an affordable price. To all the residents – thank you for sharing your enthusiasm, and your homes, with everyone who has visited.”
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Gathering MOS

Mexico's Housing Laboratory shows off 32 low-cost prototypes
At the heart of social housing in Mexico is a contradiction: Flimsy houses built far from city centers sit empty, while millions of Mexicans are still waiting to use publicly financed housing credits. Developers continue to replicate the much-maligned cutter-cut model to keep costs down. But how can new construction not just meet the bottom line but satisfy the needs of low- and middle-income families? That is the question Carlos Zedillo and Julia Gómez Candela set out to answer at the Research Center for Sustainable Development of the National Workers’ Housing Fund Institute (Infonavit). After several years of research and design, they inaugurated the nine-acre Housing Laboratory in Apan, Hidalgo, in November 2018. The laboratory is made up of 32 prototype homes that explore new typologies for social housing to meet the needs of Mexico’s diverse cultures and climates. Infonavit partnered with Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample of New York–based architecture firm MOS to execute the ambitious project. “For a long time, developers have built the exact same housing in the north of the country as the south, without thinking about climate or materials,” said architect Gómez Candela in an interview by phone. That’s why the same boxy, concrete block homes dot the outskirts of almost all Mexican cities. Homes as small as 325 square feet stay within the budget, but are hardly adequate for families. Mexican workers gradually build up credit with Infonavit to finance their first home purchase. Infonavit used to build housing, but since the 1990s it plays the role of financer—workers use their Infonavit loans to pay for houses built by private developers. Along the way, architects’ role in the process diminished. Gómez Candela says that as director of the research center, the Yale-educated Zedillo set out, “To get architects to redirect their attention back to social housing in Mexico.” The research center began with an exhaustive study of the state of social housing in Mexico, identifying where the supply of homes was failing to meet demand. Then they selected 84 counties with high rates of Infonavit credit holders who had not yet bought homes. The target counties represented the nine climate zones of Mexico. The research center then worked with MOS to solicit proposals from around the world, settling on 32 prototype homes for the Housing Laboratory. Architects including Enrique Norten, Tatiana Bilbao, and Fernanda Canales designed houses for the project. The laboratory was conceived in Apan, a small town two hours to the east of Mexico City. Built on land owned by Infonavit, the site’s proximity to the capital allowed frequent visits. Towns and cities like Apan, in the outer limits of the Mexico City metro area, are usually known for drab, uniform housing. The small village of prototype homes is a welcome variation. The houses include vernacular architectural styles from around Mexico, including adobe, thatched roofing, and Mexican timber, designed with the country’s different climates in mind; from the humid, tropical south to the arid, hot north. Each architect described their inspirations and reference points, from local architectural styles like the wooden cabins known as trojes in the state of Michoacan to self-constructed housing. Collaborating with MOS allowed the research center to learn from their extensive experience designing housing. The Apan Housing Laboratory shows how developers could build high-quality housing within the tight budgets of Infonavit credits. It is only natural that Gómez Candela says cost was the greatest difficulty in the international collaboration. “In Mexico, we are used to building with very little money,” she says. “With our colleagues from the United States and other countries, we kept having to say, ‘Make it cheaper!’” The extra effort was necessary to convince developers that the models are feasible. Even so, developers have been slow to adopt the ideas proposed in the laboratory. “They [developers] still think it will be more expensive to build this way, even if we showed them otherwise” says Gómez Candela. “The numbers do add up.” Most visitors to the Housing Laboratory are students, urban planners and developers. Gómez Candela and Zedillo both left Infonavit when the new federal administration entered in December 2018. But the laboratory remains open and the floor plans are available online under open access. The laboratory is the start of a long process to refocus social housing in Mexico on the experience of the residents, not just efficacy for the builder. The research center’s work is seeing results, as Mexican architects focus more energy on designing housing. Gómez Candela is optimistic, saying, “The architects we worked with have continued to champion the cause of housing in Mexico.”
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Needling for Space

Microsoft chips in for major affordable housing strategy around Seattle
Like many American cities with more than half a million residents, Seattle is in a housing crisis. The growth of local tech companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia Group, is reported to have increased Seattle’s population of higher-income residents by 16 percent, making the task of finding affordable housing more difficult for the city’s working class. It was announced on September 26 that Microsoft, King County, and the King County Housing Authority (KCHA) will work together to create affordable housing for more than 3,000 residents. Together, they will provide more than $245 million to purchase five apartment complexes in Kirkland, one in Bellevue, and one in Federal Way. These complexes across the three King County cities were chosen for their proximity to transit hubs and burgeoning real estate markets, which would have likely caused significant rent increases in the targeted buildings if they had not been slated for affordable housing. “This is a long-term effort to stabilize rents in communities where rents are rapidly rising,” said Dan Watson, deputy executive director of the King County Housing Authority, “and fully expect to continue over the next 10 to 15 years.” Watson also confirmed that after the complexes are purchased, their monthly rents could be as much as $500 below similar developments in their respective neighborhoods. To accrue the necessary funds for the project, Microsoft provided a loan to the KCHA for $60 million, King County provided an additional $20 million, and the KCHA itself chipped in $140 million in bonds. Jane Broom, the senior director of Microsoft Philanthropies, announced that its involvement in the collaboration is one part of a $500 million strategy initiated by the company earlier this year to respond to the myriad of challenges facing Seattle’s middle class (defined as households earning between $60,000 and $120,000 a year). "We are committed to maintaining and bolstering strong, vibrant communities here in the greater Puget Sound region," said Broom. "Thriving communities include safe, reliable and affordable housing options for people at all income levels. To do this, we all need to come together to not only build more housing options, but also to preserve what already exists." The remaining $440 million allocated by Microsoft is planned to eventually go towards the construction of additional affordable housing and homeless services.
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White Claw Summer

Morphosis's claw-like Sunset Strip complex now has a timeline
After months of speculation, a timeline has finally been determined for the construction of 8850 Sunset Boulevard, a 369,000-square-foot development which would rise over 15 stories and occupy an entire block of the Sunset Strip between San Vicente Street and Larrabee Street. Following a recently completed study by the city of West Hollywood, it has been determined that construction can begin on the Morphosis-designed, Viper Room-replacing project in the Spring of 2021 and could be completed in as few as 32 months. The site was originally purchased in 2017 by Silver Creek Development Co. for $80 million, and the project is supported by multidisciplinary real estate company Plus Development. The renderings for the development were first unveiled last December, and it appears that little, if anything, of the design has been subdued since then. The proposal still comprises two aesthetically distinct towers between a 120-foot-wide grassy hill and above a transparent ground floor. The amorphous tower facing San Vicente will be a 115-room hotel, while the rectilinear tower facing Larrabee will contain 31 condominiums and 10 or 11 units of affordable housing. The complex's ground floor will be primarily mixed-use, including a new home for the Viper Room, the infamous bar cofounded by Johnny Depp which is currently on the site. Amenities accessible to both towers will include a movie screening room, a gym, and a rooftop pool and restaurant. In addition, a three-story LED screen will be fitted into a void cut out of the tower facing San Vicente. When completed, 8850 Sunset Boulevard will be one of the most audacious buildings designed by Morphosis in its 47-year run, and will rival some of the firm’s other projects built around Los Angeles, including Emerson College Los Angeles and CalTrans District 7 Headquarters.
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A Post-Maria Mission

Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz on why Puerto Rico needs the help of more architects
Less than two years after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the politics behind its recovery and rebuilding efforts have come to the forefront of national news again and again. In recent weeks, two FEMA officials were indicted and arrested for taking bribes, committing fraud, and using federal funds for personal gain.  It’s a massive relief, but one that wasn't too surprising to Puerto Ricans who knew the money set aside for post-hurricane recuperation was being mismanaged by the federal government. One Puerto Rican, an internationally-renowned architect who served as a liaison between the private sector and FEMA for the past two years, has been very vocal about this.  “I’ve been trying to explain that Puerto Rico has been unfairly cast out as the most corrupt place in the U.S,” said Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz, founder of the San Juan- and Miami-based studio Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón. “And most of the attacks have been labeled towards local people. But this news is a silver lining and basically what I’ve been saying for the last year.” Álvarez-Díaz told AN that only a sliver of the $92 billion promised by President Trump last year has been managed locally. “Some of the people in FEMA were forcing local people to hire companies from the mainland that were not necessarily the right fit for what we are trying to do in our rebuilding," he said. "If you don’t use them they said, they would not refund the investment.”  Now that the news is out that ex-FEMA deputy regional administrator Ahsha Tribble had allegedly taken bribes from the Oklahoma City-based energy company contracted to restore the island’s power grid, it’s not crazy to think that other projects there have been subject to corruption as well. Álvarez-Díaz, who has been busy promoting the resiliency of the Puerto Rican people and making the case for more help, said the key to stopping this is three-fold: to get more locally-based architects and companies involved in the rebuilding process “to ensure it’s done in a very localized manner,” encouraging mainland architects to help out, and lastly, educating the next generation of Puerto Rican architects.  “We don’t have enough people on this island to do the work that needs to get done,” he said. “In Puerto Rico, there are less than 600 licensed architects out of 3.2 million people, but there are 15,000 licensed engineers. We need more help.”  Álvarez-Díaz’s firm practices in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, New York, and Florida. As the founder and co-chair of the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), and a board member of both Invest Puerto Rico and the ENLANCE Project Corporation of the Caño Martín Peña, two governor-appointed positions, he’s keenly aware of the island’s poor reputation and is constantly working to change it. His studio recently completed what’s been touted as the most resilient structure in Puerto Rico. Completed this summer, Renaissance Square is a $35.5 million mixed-income affordable housing project located in San Juan’s Gold Mile financial district. Though construction began years ago and was only 80 percent done when Maria hit, not a single window was broken. It was built through a public-private partnership between the Department of Housing, developer McCormack Baron Salazar, Citi Community Development, and Hunt Capital Partners. Of its 140 units, 60 percent were reserved for low-income families and there’s currently a 1,500-person waiting list to get a space. The demand is high. “Materials can be scarce here on the island and because there’s so much construction, the perception of lack creates a false sense of inflation, so people just want to use the cheapest materials instead of the best ones,” said Álvarez-Díaz. “We aim to convince the next group of developers that doing sustainable housing projects like this is actually profitable.”  Creating awareness is Álvarez-Díaz’s main mission. That’s why he’s also urging the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to use its influence to spread the knowledge that Puerto Rico is looking for outside assistance. He wants a chunk of next year’s AIA convention to be dedicated to educating architects on working in disaster zones, helping them connect with companies or organizations that need help, or advocating on behalf of equitable recovery efforts. “The AIA traditionally tends to be inside out instead of outside in,” he said. “Many architects aren’t invited to the table where big government decisions are being made and therefore are forced to talk among themselves about how to make things better. Local engineers are very successful in putting the word out there that Puerto Rico needs a lot of licensed engineers, experienced contractors, and developers. The more engineers we bring in and the less the amount of architects we attract, the more likely it is that we will miss an opportunity to create a holistic architectural vision for Puerto Rico.” The AIA already has an initiative set in place like this, its formal Disaster Assistance Program. But the goal of the program, which has certified architects for 47 years, isn’t for professionals to get more paid work, said an AIA spokesperson. Instead, it’s to provide technical expertise on development, planning, and policy, coordinate with local agencies, advocate for Good Samaritan legislation, and train for and share lessons on post-disaster building safety assessments—all things Álvarez-Díaz sees as good, but still not enough.  “We need to make sure this isn’t just about disaster recovery,” he said. “That’s the first step out of a three-step process. Once that’s done, we have to plan a whole island for the next 100 years. It’s not every day you can start from absolute scratch and benefit the next four generations of Puerto Ricans. I see the island as a kind of guinea pig for post-disaster development. Other places could one day learn from our successes and failures.” 
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There's No Place Like Dome

Kanye West's dome-shaped housing prototypes were demolished
Less than a month after news broke that Kanye West’s futuristic affordable housing project might face the wrecking ball, most of the Star Wars-reminiscent structures have been torn down. TMZ reported that three of the four dome-shaped prototypes, located on the 300-acre wooded plot that Kanye West and Kim Kardashians call home in Calabasas, California, were fully taken down as of yesterday after failing to comply with building codes set forth by the Los Angeles County Public Works. The project was originally slated to be shut down by this Sunday, September 15, if West’s team didn’t get proper construction permits for the buildings, and it seems that a trio of the homes were taken down ahead of the deadline. The remaining dome will reportedly also be demolished before then as well. The prototypes were part of the rapper-slash-designer-slash-producer’s grand vision to build an egalitarian community of sustainable homes, according to a Forbes writer who toured the property last month, in the style of the Tatooine settlements that debuted in the first Star Wars film. The four tall, rounded huts that West built near his Calabasas home, featured wooden frames of various sizes with holes cut in the top for natural light. Each structure was semi-sunken into the ground and included a concrete foundation.  According to TMZ, the state inspector who came by twice to see the homes after receiving construction noise complaints from surrounding neighbors (construction crews were working on weekend days when they shouldn't have been) said since the concrete bases were installed, it suggested the domes were more permanent rather than temporary and different permits were required. It’s unclear whether West will build the prototypes elsewhere or if he will move the remaining home to a property he just bought in Wyoming. 
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Transit-Oriented Non-Development

One of Los Angeles's most successful housing programs is facing a lawsuit

According to the Los Angeles Times, an L.A.-based nonprofit has filed a lawsuit seeking to eliminate one of the city’s most successful affordable housing programs. Fix the City (FTC), which board members describe as a “pro-safety, pro-livability, pro-‘rules-matter’ group,” is suing the municipal government over its implementation of the Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) program, which loosens planning regulations for developers who build near transit stations. FTC’s leaders assert that the TOC scheme, which was initiated after Los Angeles voters came out in favor of Measure JJJ to address the city’s homelessness crisis, has allowed local officials to bypass the elected leaders of the city council and operate without proper civic oversight.

The lawsuit is intended to halt progress on the construction of a 79-foot-tall apartment building on Santa Monica Boulevard, which would accommodate 120 residential units spread across seven stories. If the project moves forward, it will be allowed to exceed existing height limitations on Santa Monica Boulevard by more than 20 feet in exchange for a guarantee that a certain percentage of the units will be set aside for affordable housing—a provision of the TOC program aimed at increasing residential density. FTC board members have accused the city of providing developer incentives that go beyond what voters approved under Measure JJJ, insisting that officials should redraw the housing plan with greater attention to due process and community oversight.

Contrary to what the FTC’s most recent lawsuit might suggest, the Transit Oriented Communities strategy has actually been quite successful in encouraging developers to build more residential units across the city. Since it went into effect in late 2017, the program has led to developer-led proposals for 20,000 new units, almost 4,000 of which are designated as affordable. Mayor Eric Garcetti has also indicated that the initiative’s focus on transit corridors will help to reduce L.A.'s crippling congestion problems.

Supporters of the TOC program and Measure JJJ have criticized the lawsuit as an impediment in the city’s quest to address its mounting housing crisis. The FTC, which has repeatedly sued the city over planning decisions ranging from the construction of a 27-story tower in Koreatown to the addition of hundreds of miles of bus and bicycle lanes through the Mobility Plan, is a known impediment to such actions. Whether the latest lawsuit will mark a legal victory or defeat for the city still remains to be seen.