Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Competition

Market: Beyond Buildings
Type: Competition
Location: Washington, DC
Project Services: Program Development, Outreach, Program Management
Client: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development / Office of Policy Development and Research (HUD PD&R)
Participants: Graduate Students
Years Active: 4

Steven Winter Associates was contracted by HUD PD&R to develop and manage their inventive student competition. Now in its fourth year, the Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition invites teams of graduate students from accredited educational institutions in the United States to create innovative and sustainable options for low- and moderate-income housing. The winning solutions must demonstrate a clear understanding of community, population served, housing affordability, and the development process, including design and financing.

Each year, SWA conducts outreach to elicit participation from teams comprised of three to five students currently enrolled in graduate programs from a range of disciplines including, but not limited to, architecture, planning, public policy, and real estate finance or development. At least three different degree programs must be represented, providing an excellent opportunity for students to produce a robust solution. Each team must also have a faculty advisor.

A unique aspect of the awards program is that PD&R partners with an affordable housing community from a different location around the country each year to provide the students with a real-world project as the competition program. In 2016, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara California (HACSB) was selected with a specific site focused on family housing. The teams were given the option to achieve the goals set by the HACSB either as a gut rehab of the existing project or its full replacement with new construction.

The two-phase competition spanned roughly five months. Phase I begins after all the teams have been registered and the details of the program site have been announced. The teams are provided with all the necessary information regarding the site, including the number of dwellings, common areas, affordability (contract rent), and utility allowances. The teams must then submit a narrative explaining approach, along with schematic design level site plan, floor plans, and preliminary pro forma and other financial calculations to the jury, made up of experts in the field, for evaluation. Solutions must demonstrate an emphasis on innovation and provisions regarding the spotlighted issue. The jury then selects the top four teams from these submissions to move onto Phase II.

In Phase II, two team members from each of the final four teams are invited to attend a site visit where teams meet with representatives of the PHA, HUD regional office, local agencies, and the community in order to better understand the project and fine-tune their submissions. For the final event, held at HUD headquarters in Washington, DC, the teams present their comprehensive plans in person to the jury for evaluation. Deliberation occurs that day and the results are announced by the HUD Secretary or representative. The first-place winning team is awarded $20,000 and the runner-up team receives a $10,000 prize.

You can read more about the competition here