Posts tagged with "homelessness":
Atlanta’s city council approved major funding for a plan to end homelessness, voting unanimously on Monday to issue $26 million in bonds to match another $25 million promised by nonprofit United Way of Greater Atlanta, as first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The city’s mayor, Kasim Reed, has made tackling homelessness a priority during his time in office. During his “state of the city” address back in January, he announced United Way’s commitment to match any city funding towards the homeless initiative.
“I am proud to announce that with the unanimous approval of the Atlanta City Council, we will move forward with our $50 million commitment to make homelessness rare and brief in the City of Atlanta,” Reed said in a press release.
The bonds and the matched donation will indeed bring in more than $50 million. The city will also leverage (i.e. taking on debt to increase the return on investment) an additional $66 million to make a total investment of more than $115 million to tackle homelessness.
Over the next three years, the money will be distributed to provide different services, including 264 new emergency shelter beds and housing interventions. Approximately $7.6 million will be used for the acquisition and renovation of shelters over the course of the next three years. The majority of the money (around $16 million), however, will go towards the primary goal of the city’s homeless initiative: buying or renovating 500 units that will be used as permanent homes for the homeless.
Atlanta has more than 3,500 individuals and families in need of shelter, according to an analysis by non-profit Partners for Home. But homelessness in the city has been on a downward trend, decreasing by 16.5 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to National Alliance to End Homelessness’ report 2016 The State of Homelessness in America. This approval of funds brings Reed’s pledge one step closer to reality.
“We now have the opportunity to end chronic homelessness in our city and ensure that all men, women, and children—regardless of circumstance—have the chance to live stable, meaningful lives and participate fully in their communities,” Reed said.
The MADWORKSHOP Homeless Studio, taught by University of Southern California faculty Sofia Borges and R. Scott Mitchell, spent the fall 2016 semester exploring how architecture students can use their skills to address the growing homelessness crisis in Los Angeles.
The studio was funded by MADWORKSHOP, a nonprofit started by David and Mary Martin of the A.C. Martin family in 2005 to bridge the classroom and real world architectural experiences. This semester, the group explored the architectural manifestations of homelessness in order to have students postulate solutions aimed at re-housing individuals.
For their first assignment, students combined off-the-shelf and found materials into mobile “nomadic shelters.” One group repurposed the chassis of a shopping cart, adding telescoping plywood platforms to create covered sleeping surfaces. Two prototypes are designed for bicycle transport: One, a generous box on wheels, utilizes welded aluminum sections for structure and infill panels made of wood and corrugated plastic, while a second works as a mobile bed with a retractable plywood roof wrapped in canvas drop cloth. Others are designed as pushcarts that facilitate fully reclined sleeping positions, with drop-down, accordion-hinged hatches or telescoping pod sections. The prototypes convey a keen sense of appreciation for the dexterity with which transient populations live their day-to-day lives: The compartments on each prototype can lock shut and are designed to be packed up in a few minutes using minimal labor.
Next, students worked with artist Gregory Kloehn to build single-room “tiny homes” that can be used on a semi-permanent basis. These makeshift explorations are designed with space for a bed and reading nook, and were crafted from found objects including shipping pallets, a truck camper, and even mannequin busts, which were used as shingle siding. Here, the students were able to explore the minutiae of domesticity to a level of intimacy not typically emphasized in undergraduate architectural education. The students designed and built cupboards, countertops, and shelving. The emphasis was on introducing subtle aspects of domestic life for occupants, like threshold conditions that could be used as a type of front porch, beds differentiated from the ground, and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of privacy. “A quiet space to get stabilized,” explained Borges, who is also acting director of MADWORKSHOP.
Next, the class partnered with Hope of the Valley, a faith-based missionary organization active in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley area—a region that saw its homelessness population increase by 36 percent last year—to develop a modular rapid-rehousing prototype the organization could deploy as needed.
Over the second half of the semester, the class consulted with fabricators, architects, housing developers, and the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety to develop a series of prototypes that could be deployed in as little as two weeks. Vacant lots, the students postulated, could be used as sites for so-called rapid re-housing approaches, tiered measures aimed at re-introducing formerly homeless individuals to sheltered life. Their plans incorporate existing parking lots, under-utilized land, and potentially, land currently slated for redevelopment but not yet under construction, as sites for these temporary housing projects.
The group maintained an eye on the nuts-and-bolts aspects of its proposals, incorporating the technical nuances of the building code into the schemes and settling on a 30-unit courtyard housing proposal that would provide housing units for individuals on a floor above shared eating and leisure areas. The Americans with Disabilities Act compliant complex was also designed with access points for Hope of the Valley’s mobile healthcare team to pick up and drop off patients. Borges described the overall design process: “We brought in all levels [of the design and review process] to the conversation; we’ve really been making it a priority to be compliant on all levels so that we are not a proposing pie-in-the-sky proposal, but a solution.” The team worked to generate modular approaches that could not only be rapidly built, but potentially exist as pre-approved designs vetted by city agencies, ready to be deployed immediately. Mitchell said, “as unit production increases, overall costs will drop via economy of scale. The mobile aspect of the units will have a further costs savings as they are redeployed across multiple sites.”
The class built a full-scale mock-up for its final review, fabricated using the university’s shop. The result is striking in its efficiency: 92-square-feet of white-walled interiors outfitted with a built-in dresser, bed, and desk made of plywood. The rectangular space is outfitted with a special window assembly on the end opposite the door that has been designed to facilitate passive ventilation. From the outside, the modular nature comes into greater focus, as the welded steel moment frame with structural insulated panels is used to structure the module against the white, surface-nailed exterior cladding made of enameled aluminum sheets. The metal frames are designed to attach to adjacent modules while also providing overall structure to the complex.
The plans were praised at the studio’s final reviews, which were attended by representatives from Hope of the Valley, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, nonprofit homeless housing provider Skid Row Housing Trust, and others. Next, the team plans on moving forward with city agencies to get working drawings for the module approved so the pods can be fabricated and deployed across the city.
The San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles has a reputation as a quintessentially suburban enclave. But, as the inner-city areas of Los Angeles have begun to embrace the hallmarks of traditional urbanism—increased housing density, fixed-transit infrastructure, and a dedication to pedestrian space—the valley has found itself parroting those same shifts in its own distinct way.
One area where this transformation is taking shape is housing, specifically, transitional and supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals.
According to the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority, the number of homeless people in the San Fernando Valley increased by 36 percent last year. Though the increase was significantly lower throughout L.A. County overall last year, one thing is clear: The number of people without homes in the areas around Los Angeles’s urban core area is growing. A similar trend is playing out across the country. Not only are urban homeless populations being increasingly displaced out toward the suburban areas by gentrification, but greater numbers of suburbanites themselves are becoming homeless, as well, due to a fraying social net and systematic income inequality.
Dire though the situation might be, Los Angeles—and the San Fernando Valley in particular—is currently poised to make strides in re-housing currently homeless individuals living in quasi-suburban environments by building a collection of new housing projects across the city. That’s because this November, 76 percent of L.A.’s voters supported Measure HHH, the city’s Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond. The initiative will raise $1.2 billion in bonds to pay for the construction of up to 10,000 units of housing for the homeless. The victory represents a shift in collective perspective that goes hand-in-hand with changing urban attitudes: As transit, density, and pedestrianism spread, so too has a visceral awareness that the city’s homeless population has been wholly abandoned by society and that action is overdue.
The passage of Measure HHH represents an opportunity for architects to assert themselves in civic and cultural discourse at an incredibly meaningful scale. And as much as the valley has begun to accept increased density, so too is it likely to see its fair share of new transitional and supportive housing as a result.
Already, the Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), a local affordable housing provider known for its focus on design quality, has begun to expand into neighborhoods beyond Skid Row. The organization opened a new set of apartments designed by Los Angeles–based architects Brooks + Scarpa this summer in the MacArthur Park neighborhood just west of Downtown Los Angeles. The project, called The Six, is the group’s first development with permanent supportive housing specifically for veterans. The name of the complex comes from the military shorthand, “got your six,” which means “I’ve got your back.”
The complex is designed around a central, planted courtyard and is expected to receive LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It features solar panels on the roof and ground-level supportive services for the residents, with a large public courtyard located on the second floor. Units rise up around the perimeter of the courtyard along a single-loaded corridor and are capped by a roof terrace and edible garden. The firm also calibrated the building’s architectural massing in order to respond to passive cooling and lighting strategies and features selectively glazed exposures as well as a courtyard layout that facilitates passive lighting and ventilation.
Another project under development by SRHT is Michael Maltzan Architecture’s (MMA) Crest Apartments in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley. Crest Apartments will deliver 64 affordable housing units for formerly homeless veterans. The building is laid out as a long, stepped housing block raised on a series of piers above multifunctional hard- and soft-landscaped areas. The long and narrow site shapes the complex such that the building’s mass steps around in plan as it climbs in height, creating vertical bands of windows aimed toward the street and side yard in the process. The ground floor of the complex contains supportive service areas as well as a clinic and community garden. The building recently finished construction and residents are beginning to move in.
The future of housing efforts in the valley is also being tackled by students at University of Southern California (USC), where a studio funded by the nonprofit Martin Architecture and Design Workshop (MADWORKSHOP) is aiming to develop a rapid-re-housing prototype to be deployed across the valley. The studio, formally unrelated to Measure HHH, is led by Sofia Borges, acting director at MADWORKSHOP and R. Scott Mitchell, assistant professor of practice at USC. The professors tasked architecture students with studying the spatial implications of homelessness at the individual person’s scale.
Ultimately, the studio, with nondenominational ministry Hope of the Valley as its client, developed the beginnings of a single-occupancy housing prototype that could be mass-produced and temporarily deployed to selected vacant sites in as little as two weeks. The cohort spent the semester meeting with officials in the city government, including the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, to work on an actionable plan for implementing their prototype. The students built a full-scale mock-up of the 96-square-foot unit for their final review and detailed plans for how the unit might be aggregated into larger configurations as a sort of first-response to help people transition from living on the streets to occupying more formal dwellings like The Six or Crest Apartments.
Estimates for 2015 released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority put Los Angeles County’s homeless population at 44,359 individuals, with 17,687 of the 25,686 homeless residents of the City of Los Angeles being completely unsheltered. On April 20, in what is being referred to as a call to arms across the city, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he had appropriated $138 million in funding aimed at addressing some of the needs of this vulnerable and marginalized population. A portion of the new funds—$86 million—is earmarked for the development of permanent affordable housing.
Though the sum is vast, there are serious concerns regarding the viability of the proposal’s funding sources. Garcetti’s budget calls for the majority of the funds to be raised from linkage fees paid by developers, a set of fees that are not currently collected by the city. Should the L.A. City Council approve the mayor’s budget, it will have to instate new linkage fees as well. Simultaneously, homeless-relief advocates consider the $138 million sum a pittance of what is needed to seriously address the area’s entrenched homelessness issues, with many calling for a November ballot initiative to establish a permanent fund for the cause. Additionally in this election year, homelessness is being seen more widely as a phenomenon directly related to what some see as a rise in income inequality and endemic wage stagnation.
Amid this context, the impact of this new funding for affordable and supportive housing could be vast. The City of L.A. is planning to use the sale or redevelopment of several surplus properties it holds to fund some of the construction of new affordable housing. L.A.’s Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), a nonprofit established in 1989 to build permanent affordable housing for low-income Angelenos, will likely be one of the organizations to lead the efforts in increasing the city’s affordable-housing stock. And, with recently completed projects by high-caliber area firms like Michael Maltzan Architecture, Brooks + Scarpa Architects, and Killefer Flammang Architects, SRHT is poised to lead the campaign to win the hearts, minds, and pockets of the city’s many powerful, moneyed interests resistant to homeless housing in their neighborhoods. Regarding the recently completed Brooks + Scarpa SIX project, SRHT CEO Mike Alvidrez remarked, “We’ve tried to showcase the architect’s talents. Good design is an integral part of all the work that we do.” He went on to say, “The city, county, and state have always made dollars available for affordable housing, but at too small a scale. [SRHT’s projects have shown that] high-quality affordable housing can be attractive and be seen as a valuable aesthetic contribution to the communities in which they are developed. Hopefully [good design] will assuage some of the concerns people have; there’s no reason well-designed buildings and housing for homeless people across L.A. can’t coexist.”
After AN contributor Peter Zellner wrote a blistering critique of L.A.’s response to the homelessness crisis, the city’s American Institute of Architects chapter got involved by convening a congress aimed at bringing together designers, affordable-housing leaders, and politicians around homelessness issues. Adding to his critique, Zellner said, “Architects and designers have to become more involved politically in order to raise awareness. It would be incumbent upon architects to think of forms of urbanism that integrate approaches for housing the homeless and articulate a viable alternate vision [for L.A.’s future] that is dense, vertical, and integrated. [We can] lead through design.”
The congress, called Design for Dignity, took place on May 6 and featured panel discussions and lectures from advocates working across the city, from the streets of Skid Row to the corridors of City Hall. Regarding the role design can play in addressing the homelessness crisis, congress participant, architect, and homeless-relief advocate Michael Lehrer said, “We have to create places that are nurturing and safe—that’s important. It’s also critical the response provides a range of types of inhabitation. Some of these informal communities are old and have deep social structures: How do you provide a wholesome existence and place and still provide space for individuals who are not fully interested in being a part of the social armature?”
With the state of California recently announcing a $2 billion plan to fund affordable housing for mentally ill citizens living on the streets statewide and the county of Los Angeles soon to put forth a plan of its own, one wonders if these efforts might finally begin to reverse the fortunes of tens of thousands of Los Angeles’s residents.
AIA|LA asks “How will design professions respond to the nearly 47,000 homeless people living in L.A. County?”
Sustainability and high design meet in Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects' affordable housing complex.Designing a sustainable building on a budget is tricky enough. But for the Merritt Crossing senior housing complex in Oakland, California, non-profit developer Satellite Affordable Housing Associates upped the ante, asking Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects to follow not one but two green-building ratings systems. "They wanted to push the envelope of what they typically do and decided to pursue not only the LEED rating, but also the GreenPoint system," said principal Richard Stacy. "So we actually did both, which is kind of crazy." Wrapped in a colorful cement-composite rain screen system punctuated by high performance windows, Merritt Crossing achieved LEED for Homes Mid-Rise Pilot Program Platinum and earned 206 points on the Build-It-Green GreenPoint scale. The building was also the first Energy Star Rated multi-family residence in California, and was awarded 104 points by Bay-Friendly Landscaping. Merritt Crossing’s 70 apartments serve low-income seniors with incomes between 30 and 50 percent of the area median. More than half of the units are reserved for residents at risk of homelessness or living with HIV/AIDS. Stacy explains that in the context of affordable housing, sustainability means two things. The first is quality of life for the residents, "the sorts of things that have a direct benefit to the people living there," such as natural daylighting and indoor air quality. The second is energy efficiency. "Both non-profits and [their] residents have limited financial capabilities," said Stacy. "The one time they have funding for that kind of thing is when they’re building a building. So we focused a lot on the building envelope in terms of energy efficiency. At the same time, we wanted to have ample daylight and controlled ventilation.” Finding themselves with unused contingency funds during construction Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects upgraded the exterior skin to a rain screen system of SWISSPEARL cement composite. "We worked pretty closely with the SWISSPEARL company," said Stacy, who noted that Merritt Crossing may be the first building in the United States to use the system. Though the panels are installed like lap siding they offer "the benefits of a rain screen in terms of cooling and waterproofing issues," he explained. To accommodate the thicker skin, window manufacturer Torrance Aluminum designed custom trim pieces, which "had the added benefit of giving us the appearance of deeply recessed windows," said Stacy. Insulation was a special concern for the architects, both because Merritt Crossing was built using metal frame construction, and to minimize air infiltration in keeping with the green ratings systems. The building’s exterior walls are wrapped in 1-inch-thick high performance polyiso insulation from Dow Corning with a Grace Perm-A-Barrier VPS vapor permeable membrane. "As a result we ended up with a very, very tight building from an air insulation standpoint, which means you have to pay more attention to air ventilation," said Stacy. To compensate, Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects’ mechanical engineers designed a special air filtration system for the building’s roof, complete with built-in HEPA filters. The building’s southwest facade faces a freeway, presenting potential noise and privacy issues in addition to exposure to the western sun. "We did a highly layered facade on that [side] where the actual exterior wall is back three to four feet from another screen wall," said Stacy. The outer wall "is a combination of typical wall assembly as well as GreenScreen panels that form a webbing of open areas and solid areas that help with sunshading as well as acoustical [dampening] and privacy." Greenery in balcony planters will eventually grow up and over the screens. On the ground floor, the garage is also enclosed in GreenScreen trellising, to enhance pedestrians’ view without sacrificing ventilation. Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects’ Merritt Crossing proves that affordable housing does not have to look institutional. The facade’s vibrant colors—green on the northeast elevation, red on the southwest—and playful punched texture pay homage to the neighborhood’s patchwork of architectural styles and building uses. The first major building in the planned redevelopment of the area around the Lake Merritt BART regional transit station, Merritt Crossing sets the bar high for future developments.