Search results for "affordable housing"

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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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Farm to City

Van Alen's Climate Council takes a road trip to study climate change
The hot July sun hit the grooves of the farmland barreling past our bus windows as we approached Bowles Farming Company in Los Banos, California. Envisioning sunburns and muddy hikes through the furrows, we—the two dozen landscape design, engineering, and architecture professionals that make up the Van Alen Institute Climate Council—were about to visit the farm as part of a three-day expedition in Northern California to consider how design thinking could impact the way this farm and farms like it plan for climate change. Van Alen launched the Climate Council in 2018 as a platform for practicing design professionals and climate change aficionados to convene for twice-annual, three-day expeditions in regions across the U.S. Through tours, discussions, social gatherings, and hands-on charrettes, our trips provide members with a congenial setting for learning and reflection away from the hectic pace of everyday business. Right at the beginning of this inaugural trip, the Climate Council’s expectations contrasted dramatically with the realities of modern agriculture. Instead of weathering watermelon fields, we found ourselves in a comfortable boardroom. Farm executives welcomed us with cut melon samples and a PowerPoint presentation of the farm’s history, challenges, and technology. Over the soft hum of air-conditioning and with his adolescent son beside him, Cannon Michael, the farm’s president and CEO, shared the impressive facts of his large-scale operation: 11,000 acres, 14 crops, and six generations. Bowles has an advantage that it shares with a small group of farms in the area: Their history of utilizing water from the San Joaquin River provides senior rights to surface water. But with that seniority comes an increased responsibility and stewardship. Their on-staff agronomist schedules crop irrigation daily with care for every drop, logging and adapting to changes in climate on the spot. Michael proudly told us of the precision and care that Bowles uses to manage its water supply amid California’s mounting water crisis. “In times of drought, farmers are often blamed for overusing water,” Michael said. “The reality is, it’s not in a farmer’s best interest to waste water, as we only want to use the exact amount that the crop needs—improper water management has a negative impact on crop production. California is an expensive place to do business, and we must carefully monitor all our inputs and costs, water being a primary one of them. It is also a fact that producing the food and fiber we all rely on every day takes water. Where these products are produced is of critical importance. Not all farms are held to high standards of environmental and ethical production—California leads the way in the world.” Bowles’s commitment to precision and innovation unraveled the Climate Council’s anticipated mission and sent us on a new track of questioning in the days that followed. After visits with a strawberry farmer, a food distribution company, a tomato processing plant, and more, we started asking: What if cities had intricate systems dedicated to tracking inputs and outputs as accurately as these farms? We had set out on our trip thinking we would consider how design could impact the future of food production and distribution, but instead, we realized that cities had at least as much to learn from modern agricultural practices. Van Alen Climate Council Twice a year, the Climate Council travels to the same region—the first visit for exploration, the second for strategizing and discussing pressing climate issues using an interdisciplinary, systems-based approach. We offer professional advice to our partners and hosts, and aim to share lessons learned with other regions, both through further council travel and via members’ professional practices. The council’s purpose is rooted in Van Alen’s mission as a design organization that seeks to understand and demonstrate how design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives. The council also provides support and funding for Van Alen’s broader climate-related work. For more than a decade, we have created cross-disciplinary design and research projects that investigate issues of climate change across the country, from the sinking Lower Mississippi River Delta to the hurricane-battered eastern coasts. We are presently working in Greater Miami to help communities protect themselves from rising sea levels, using a design approach to make the region more socially equitable and economically resilient. In selecting the inaugural topic for the Climate Council to explore, co-chairs Claire Weisz and Mark Johnson commented, “We wanted to look at food as the first subject with this council. It’s all-encompassing. It’s something designers don’t get to talk about very often but that ultimately impacts us.” Even designers who work in cities have a vested interest in learning more about the role of agriculture in our society. At a panel conversation during our program, Mary Kimball, the director for the University of California, Davis’s Center for Land-Based Learning (and a partner in developing the council’s California program), reminded us that more than two-thirds of Sacramento’s regional farmland specialty crop jobs are in urban environments. Even though we typically associate agricultural jobs with rural labor, food distribution and packaging centers require resources that are almost always located in urban environments. So much of the food economy surrounds people in urban spaces every day, but we just don’t see it. Similarly, many of the challenges that farmers face in today’s economy are relevant to city dwellers. Time is of the essence On our first day in California, council members met David John, the business strategist at General Produce Company, a distribution center located 10 minutes from the central business district of Sacramento. As we walked through dozens of icy storage rooms, John told us that from the time of arrival to the time of departure, almost all of the fresh fruits and vegetables are present in the facility for less than 48 hours. The center runs 24/7, with days off only on Christmas and New Year’s. When asked about the built environment of the facility, John said that many of the workers adjust rooms or shelving as needed with changes in supply, but that it is difficult to allow for changes because they take time away from moving product. This distribution center, like a vital transit system in a big city, cannot take a day off. We surmised that systems thinking, like that used in transportation engineering, could be used to create more flexible environments in food distribution centers, along with more adaptable storage facilities. The berry farmer’s dilemma Following a brief meeting with the president of the Strawberry Commission of California near Salinas, our council climbed through coastal strawberry fields owned and operated by Tom AmRhein of Naturipe, Inc. AmRhein presented us with a pressing issue that berry farmers are facing in the area: The median home value in Salinas is more than $400,000. With minimum wage for farm laborers at $11 an hour, an enormous gap exists between the incomes of berry pickers and the supply of affordable housing in the area. As a result, AmRhein said that as many as five different families may share a home together in the valley, bringing housing density to the level of some of the nation’s biggest cities. As we downloaded our findings from Tom, the council considered what kind of affordable housing solutions could designers, working with migrant communities, dream up for rural laborers and their families. Moreover, with climate change making weather patterns and farming yields more unpredictable than ever, what kind of housing solutions would provide stronger, more stable, and adaptable shelters in this harsh environment? What’s next? When asked about innovation in agriculture, our program collaborator Kyeema Zerbe, deputy director of the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food & Health (IIFH), said, “The IIFH prides itself on making uncommon interdisciplinary connections to catalyze innovation across food, agriculture, and health. Collaborations like those with Van Alen help facilitate exploration of systemic issues and view prevailing challenges from new local and regional perspectives. By delving into the intersections between design, agriculture, and innovation, we can begin to imagine a safer, more sustainable and secure food system.” Van Alen believes that climate change is an all-encompassing phenomenon. In such politically divided times, the organization seeks opportunities where designers can work under the partisan radar to generate true collaboration between cities and their surrounding regions, inviting professionals from all backgrounds to innovate. The Climate Council’s experience in Sacramento is an example of how nontraditional collaboration and open-mindedness can lead to enlightened discovery. And it’s just the beginning. On its third day in California, Climate Council members huddled pensively around drafting tables at the UC Davis Department of Landscape Architecture. Over the hours of charrette that followed, they revisited the issues that arose during this trip: How could farm feedback loops inform urban design? What role does governance play in the lack of balance of inputs and outputs in major cities? How can interdisciplinary design professionals enhance the security and resilience of existing rural communities that support our farm industry? Together, we started envisioning answers to these and other questions and made plans to return to Sacramento in early 2019 with design concepts to address them. When we go back, we intend to continue our conversations with local farmers, community members, and other stakeholders. We know there are opportunities for collaboration and implementation; we just need time together. We are onto something.
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15 Years of The Architect's Newspaper

A brief history of architecture in the 21st century
To celebrate our 15th anniversary, we looked back through the archives for our favorite moments since we started. We found stories that aged well (and some that didn’t), as well as a wide range of interviews, editorials, and other articles that we feel contributed to the broader conversation. We also took a closer look at the most memorable tributes to those we lost, and heard from editors past and present about their time here. Check out this history of architecture in the 21st century through the headlines of The Architect's Newspaper:

2003

Protest: Michael Sorkin on Ground Zero

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Crit: AIA Convention (“No more weird architecture in Philadelphia”)
Crit: Spring Street Salt Shed (“In praise of the urban object”)
How institutionalized racism and housing policy segregated our cities
Chinatown residents protest de Blasio rezoning
Roche-Dinkeloo’s Ambassador Grille receives landmark designation
Q&A: Jorge Otero-Pailos: Why the Met Breuer matters
Comment: Ronald Rael on the realities of the U.S.-Mexico border
Detroit Zoo penguin habitat opens
Chicago battles to keep Lucas Museum of Narrative Art from moving
Martino Stierli on the redesign of MoMA’s A+D galleries
WTC Oculus opens
Letter: Phyllis Lambert pleads for Four Seasons preservation
Q&A: Mabel Wilson
#NotmyAIA: Protests erupt over AIA's support of Trump
Snøhetta’s addition to SFMoMA opens
DS+R’s Vagelos Education Center opens
Baltimore’s Brutalist McKeldin Fountain pulverized

2017

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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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Hollywood Park Rises

Renderings unveiled for mixed-use neighborhood around L.A.’s new NFL stadium
A project team led by developers Wilson Meany and Stockbridge has unveiled the latest batch of renderings for a 2,500-unit mixed-use neighborhood set to rise around the forthcoming Los Angeles Rams stadium in Inglewood, California. Gensler, BCV Architecture + Interiors, Architects Orange, and Hart Howerton are providing architectural design services for the project while Studio-MLA is the landscape architect for the 298-acre site, Curbed reports. The new HKS Architects–designed, $2.66-billion stadium is in the midst of heavy construction and topped out earlier this year. The teardrop-shaped structure will come wrapped in over 36,000 perforated metal panels and will be punctuated by a large-format elliptical screen located at its uppermost levels that will play advertisements and other graphic projections. A large artificial lake will be located beside the stadium, as well, and will feature a series of waterfalls. The stadium is due to be completed in 2020. According to a project website, the new surrounding neighborhood will open in phases starting in 2020 with an initial batch of 314 apartments of various configurations, including three-bedroom units, spread out over two structures. Eventually, the development will contain 2,500 dwelling units, 620,000-square feet of retail spaces, a 300-key hotel, and a new casino. The new renderings portray a series of porous outdoor shopping areas connected by covered outdoor spaces, programmed landscape areas, and indoor-outdoor venues like a foodie-friendly dining hall and several covered lounge areas. The plans also call for a long and narrow amphitheater and a performance stage. Residential areas for the development will see structures two- to four-stories in height while the hotel complex is slated for a five-story structure anchored by groundfloor retail. An unspecified amount of office space will also be included in the project. The size and market-driven nature of the new development—there are no new affordable housing units slated in conjunction with the project—has already jump-started gentrification in the renter-heavy, predominantly working-class area. Estimates indicate that property values have increased by as much as 80 percent in recent years, Curbed reports. New housing and shopping are not the only things coming to the area, however. A recently-unveiled plan seeks to link the new neighborhood with the regional transit system by building a new 1.8-mile automated people mover. The new infrastructure aims to provide easy access to the site when it will be used as a venue during the 2028 Olympic games, which Los Angeles is hosting across a series of scattered regional sites and facilities that will include the new stadium complex. *Correction: This story incorrectly reported that 3,000 housing units were being built in conjunction with the development; The correct figure is 2,500 units. 
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Mind the Gap

Renderings revealed for COOKFOX's latest St. John's Terminal scheme
New renderings have been released for the massive redevelopment of Lower Manhattan’s St. John’s Terminal, and a lot has changed since the City Council initially approved the $100-million air rights sale from the adjacent Pier 40 for the project. While a mountain of pixelated residential towers were initially slated to bring nearly 1,600 apartments to the three blocks across from Hudson River Park (30 percent of them affordable), the future of the former rail terminal now appears to be a 12-story office building. The shift is reportedly due in part to a slowdown in New York’s residential market. Canadian developer Oxford Properties, which purchased the southernmost 550 Washington Street site from Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital for $700 million last year, has retained COOKFOX Architects to transform St. John’s Terminal into high-quality office space. 550 Washington, a low-slung, three-story brick building finished in 1934, will gain a nine-floor topper and most of the original facade will be converted into a thin “envelope” that the glassy base will sit recessed inside of. COOKFOX also plans on blowing out the 1.3-million-square-foot office building’s interior walls and creating open floorplates of up to 100,000 square feet, a hot commodity as tech companies continue to snatch up open office space in Manhattan. The conversion, which under the zoning approval granted in 2016 can proceed as-of-right, will dramatically lighten up the currently-enclosed building by recladding the west-facing side in glass. The 28-foot-tall first and second floors, and 16-foot ceiling heights everywhere else, will both give tenants views across the Hudson River as well as let in plenty of natural light. Referencing the plot’s industrial past, COOKFOX has included steel accents and large multi-mullioned windows but will also be adding a landscaped roof and a large amount of accessible terrace space. Housing isn’t entirely off the table across the rest of the site. Atlas and Westbrook still own the 420,000-square-foot northern portion, and the developers are reportedly looking into building 200 to 230 large, market-rate residential units. Perhaps 150 to 200 units of affordable housing for seniors could also be in the works, but the potential parking garage, recreation center, and existing elevated rail overpass will be scrapped.
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Sign ‘Em If You Got 'Em

Before leaving office, California governor Jerry Brown enacts pro-housing legislation
Long considered an environmental steward and an urban booster, outgoing California governor Jerry Brown has signed a series of pro-density and housing-friendly bills into law as the final legislative session of his last term as governor draws to a close. Among the issues supported by the spate of bills are: efforts to build more densely around transit stations in the San Francisco Bay Area; a desire to enshrine Obama-era federal fair housing guidelines into California law; and plans to force wealthy municipalities to build their fair share of affordable housing. A list of some of the significant legislative gains signed into law by Governor Brown follows: AB 2923 Assembly Bill 2923 settles a long-running battle to give the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) authority a greater degree of control over the land that it owns surrounding its transit stops across the Bay Area region. The land in question is currently subjected to many of the strict density limits imposed by surrounding housing-adverse communities. The enaction of the bill will allow for up to 20,000 new housing units—35 percent of which would be affordable housing—to be built on the roughly 250 acres the authority owns by 2040. In a statement, BART general manager Grace Crunican celebrated the victory by sounding a conciliatory tone. She said, “Although AB2923 directs BART to adopt new transit-oriented development (TOD) zoning standards for each BART station, I want to assure community leaders and residents that BART is committed to continuing our collaborative approach. We have found that working closely with neighborhoods and local elected officials to consider community needs is not only respectful, it's the most efficient way to get the job done.” The measure gives local municipalities two years to update their zoning plans to accommodate the new housing or risk losing all control over BART-associated projects currently under their jurisdiction. AB 686 Assembly Bill 686 would require any housing- and community development–focused public agency to administer its programs and activities in a manner that supports the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH) efforts of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The bill represents an effort to enshrine those protections—as well as Obama-era fair housing programs—into California law amid a federal restructuring of fair housing priorities under the current administration. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has referred to AFFH unironically as a “social-engineering scheme” despite the fact that AFFH efforts serve to counter the long-standing legacy of federally-enacted and enforced racial segregation and redlining in American neighborhoods. Secretary Carson is currently working to “reinterpret” AFFH goals, which many racial equity activists have interpreted as an effort to dismantle the guidelines entirely. AB 1771 Assembly Bill 1771 aims to reform California’s Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) law in order to make regional housing planning more data-driven and transparent by ensuring that high-income, job-rich cities plan and zone for affordable housing. The bill represents an effort to force wealthy cities like Beverly Hills and those surrounding San Fransico to plan for additional affordable housing so that existing low-income communities are not solely saddled with the burden of producing more housing. There is an emerging trend showing that these low-income communities have seen concentrated growth in both new market rate and affordable housing, a phenomenon that has fueled displacement and gentrification. AB 1771 aims for an initial and partial fix by beginning to hold wealthy areas responsible for producing their fair share of affordable housing.   SB828 Last but not least, State Bill 828 would reform the methodology California uses when setting local housing goals for the RHNA mentioned above. Moving forward, the state will use several data-based metrics, including the percentage of renter households that are overcrowded and current vacancy rates, to calculate each municipality’s new RHNA goals.  The newly-enacted laws follow several years’ worth of legislative gains for housing advocates in the state. However, the efforts have yet to meaningfully reduce the number of rent-burdened households in the state and have had an even smaller impact on racial segregation or access to homeownership for low-income households. These issues are expected to take center stage for California’s next governor when they take office in 2019 following the November election.
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Showtime

What to see at the 2018 Architecture & Design Film Festival in New York City
Now in its tenth year, the Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF) is coming to New York later this month with a solid roster of unmissable short- and long-form films. For six days starting on October 16, the Cinépolis Chelsea will host screening after screening of rarely-seen films for your viewing pleasure. This year’s opening night show and reception will be held at the SVA Theatre, presenting the world premiere of Basia and Leonard Myszynski’s film Leaning OutIn the 59-minute documentary, the filmmakers dive into the story of Leslie E. Robertson, the lead structural engineer behind the original World Trade Center towers. The film follows his response to the September 11 attacks as well as his lifelong fight for human rights and peace through service and design in the United States and abroad.  The Grand Prize Winner of the 2018 AIA Film Challenge will also be announced on the first day of the festival, as well as the People's Choice Award winner. Public voting for People's Choice is open now through Monday, October 7 and all films are free to watch here. Other highlights from this fall’s ADFF lineup include: A Train to Rockaway directed by William Starling and Carlos Rojas-Felice A short film showcasing the daily routine of amateur sandcastle architect Calvin Seibert, an artist who believes the production of art is the most interesting element of design. Frank Gehry: Building Justice directed by Ultan Guilfoye Co-presented by New York Magazine, this long-form film follows Frank Gehry and his studios at SCI-Arc and the Yale School of Architecture. Together with his students, he investigated prison design and visited one of the world’s most progressive detention centers in Norway. Do More with Less directed by Katerina Kliwadenko and Mario Novas This feature-length film hit the festival circuit last year and has received high praise for its depiction of the young architects and students in Latin America that are creating innovative architecture using few financial and material resources. Francis Kéré: An Architect Between directed by directed Daniel Schwartz Detailing the design legacy of world-renowned architect Francis Kéré, this short film dives into his social justice work in Burkina Faso and Germany.   Enough White Teacups directed by Michelle Bauer Carpenter This documentary highlights the award-winning projects that came out of an international design competition by the Danish nonprofit INDEX: Design to Improve Life. The designs center around sustainable strategies to combat key global issues such as infant mortality, ocean pollution, and affordable housing. Five films (including a few from above) will include post-preview panels with speakers such as Jake Gorst, Martino Stierli, Guillaume de Morsier, and more. You can view the entire ADFF schedule here. Tickets for opening night are $75, while general admission for all other films will be $17 for adults and $12.50 for students. Films showing in the pop-up Sony Theatre at Cinépolis Chelsea will be free, but tickets are required. They are available for purchase online, at the box office, or by phone.
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Go Big or Go Home

University of Washington planning high-rise innovation district
The Seattle City Council has given preliminary approval to a transformative expansion plan for the University of Washington (UW) that would create a new high-rise innovation district beside the UW's waterfront campus in northeastern Seattle. The Seattle Times reported that the expansion could include up to 6 million square feet of new development, enough to cater to roughly 7,000 new students and staff members. Of that total, roughly 3 million square feet would be dedicated to the new innovation district, which is depicted in a rendering accompanying the proposal as a cluster of pixelated towers surrounding a proposed light rail transit stop slated to open adjacent to the campus in coming years. The expansion would also grow along the Portage Bay waterfront, according to a potential site plan, and would include up to 450 affordable housing units. Ultimately, the expansion could double the size of the university with respect to a previous growth plan approved in 2003 by building on top of existing parking lots and sports fields currently used by the university. The approval granted by the Seattle City Council is contingent on additional affordable housing—the university originally proposed building only 150 affordable units—and a greater emphasis on walkability and transit accessibility for the district than was originally proposed. According to the approved plan, the affordable housing component would serve to provide residences for some of the university's new low-wage workers. The greater emphasis on transit access aims to ensure that those workers, many of whom are expected to drive in from far-flung and more affordable areas, have other options for getting to work. The expansion is aimed at increasing the size of the university without meaningfully expanding its footprint into surrounding areas. As a result, up to 86 sites currently owned by UW would be open to development, including several slated for high-rise development with a maximum height limit of up to 240 feet, The Times reports. Next, the plan heads back to the university for final approval. A project timeline estimates that the plan will come into being in phases over the next decade or so.
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Under These Conditions

Nashville is the South's most dangerous city for construction workers
Nashville is the most dangerous city in the South for construction workers, according to The Guardian. A study released last year found that basic safety precautions on job sites in the Music City were being overlooked due to a top-down culture of fear and abuse. That toxic environment led to 16 accidental deaths in the industry from 2016 to 2017, per OSHA records. As one of the region’s fastest growing cities, over $13 billion has been poured into new construction over the last few years, and workplace safety is of top concern for Tennessee unions. The Guardian noted that half of those who died during that fateful two-year period were Latinos, a population that’s grown two-fold in the last 10 years, as high demand for construction workers has drawn migrant laborers to the area. Safety advocates say that low wages—just $14 per hour—and widespread abuse have contributed to these unsafe labor conditions on job sites across the city. There’s a palpable fear amongst workers that they can be easily replaced, so they continue to cooperate despite the dangerous work. Eleven of the 16 workers who died in the last two years weren’t wearing a safety harness and fell from their postings. Though it’s going to take a lot of effort to upgrade labor laws in a city with this much development, one piece of recent news has people hopeful. Two weeks ago, Nashville’s Major League Soccer team ownership signed a deal with Stand Up Nashville, a construction union-advocacy organization, to improve working conditions at the new 27,500-seat stadium designed by Populous. The community benefits agreement will raise the minimum wage for all workers to $15.50 and consider the importance of awarding contracts to companies with strong workplace safety records. It will also include provisions for the build-out of nearby affordable housing. 
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Basement Boom

New York City pilots basement housing program to expand affordability
For the past two years, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (DHP), the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department, and the Department of City Planning have been working with city council members to legalize more basement apartment rental units, and this June the city took a major step forward. According to City Hall, “The City is using innovative strategies to unlock more affordable housing at every level – including the basement.” Currently, thousands of people are occupying basement and cellar apartments deemed not fit for habitation. According to Council Member Rafael Espinal, “In East New York, I can comfortably estimate that over 75 percent of the basements are being rented illegally.” Also, they haven't been properly registered with the Department of Finance. Following an initial feasibility study, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Members Brad Lander, Rafael Espinal, and Inez Barron proposed legislation this summer to establish a three-year pilot program to facilitate the creation and renovation of apartments in the basements and cellars of certain one- and two-family homes in Brooklyn Community District 5. This demonstration program intends to provide clearer guidelines for landlords looking to make qualifying basements legally habitable. The de Blasio administration has invested $11.7 million in the new program. According to a City Hall press release, “This innovative program will provide safe and legal housing options to more New Yorkers.” Modifications of existing construction codes are designed to improve health and safety standards for occupants while reducing the overall cost of conversions. Barron said, “This bill will enable landlords to make necessary structural adjustments to their basements so that these potential living spaces can be legalized and legitimized.” The DHP is seeking a qualified community-based organization (CBO) to administer the program. The DHP will fund the CBO to assist landlords with completing low-interest loan applications and selecting approved contractors to complete the work. To qualify as a landlord, a homeowner must have an income at or below 165 percent of area median income and occupy the one- or two-family home as their primary residence. If the pilot program succeeds it will potentially expand to all five boroughs.
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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.